In any business or educational setting, you are sure to be required to engage in public speaking. In all your preparations, it is easy to make some simple mistakes in how you engage with your audience. Here is a list of five mistakes that you might make and how to correct them.
1. You do not know enough about the audience and your place in the program.
When preparing a speech, try to learn as much as you can about the audience you will have before you. For example, you may be making a business speech, but you specifically need to know if your audience will be all executives at a traditional company or if you will be facing a group of independent entrepreneurs. In another example, you will need to know if the group of schoolteachers you are speaking to is composed of seasoned veterans of the classroom or the fresh-out-of-school new crop of educators.
When you are booked for your presentation, ask good questions of the event organizer. Examples of this might include the following: What type of group is this? What will they be doing right before and after my presentation? Has this group had many presentations on this subject before or is this their first exposure to my topic? Who else will be speaking that day and what will they be discussing? Make a list of your own questions that you might need answered based on your topic.
Once you know the details of your group, you can then better plan your approach to your oral presentation. Be attentive to the group’s reactions once you actually begin your speech. Shift your presentation style as you go along. Even the best pre-event research can prove to be off target.
2. You fail to use storytelling to convey key points.
Few people can listen to a presentation and remember every key concept. When you are ready to present your most important ideas in your presentation, connect a personal anecdote, business story or folktale to become the “hook” on which your audience can remember your points. Storytelling in an oral presentation allows your audience to engage both the analytic and imaginative sides of their mind, creating better retention of your topic. Learning how to create a story can dramatically improve your public speaking.
3. You do not provide interactive moments for your audience.
Audiences today are used to being actively involved in the world around them. During your presentation, find opportunities for the audience to respond to your comments, to engage in brief conversations with others around them, to do an action or task to make their input known. Do not wait until the end of your presentation to call forth audience involvement. Rather, solicit their input and actions throughout your speech.
4. You only use one learning style in your presentation.
There are many ways for people to learn and absorb information. In your speech, try to incorporate the senses. A mixture of visual components, various other types of audio and physical movement, could accompany your words. You will be a refreshing speaker when your audience has many ways to engage with your information.
5. You make common non-verbal errors.
Even the most prepared presenter can be waylaid by common speaking errors. Be sure to keep your pacing or rate of speech at an appropriate speed. If you have the slightest doubt about the audience being able to hear you, use a microphone. If your group is over 15 people, in most cases you should automatically use a microphone. Practice your presentation so that you are not relying on reading projected slides on the wall. Limit your movement on stage so that you do not pace like a caged animal. Be sure your clothing choices are the same or slightly above the formality level of your audience. Keep pleasant and consistent eye contact with your group. While the content of your oral presentation might be crucial, poor non-verbal techniques can block communication with your group.
An oral presentation is never composed of just the words you speak. Consider the many elements of your speech that will take you from a being good speaker to a memorable speaker who can make important messages stick in the minds of your listeners.
Sean Buvala is the creator of the corporate storytelling training kit at http://www.storytelling101.com and a leading how-to book on creating great stories from “floats and anecdotes,” the story-starters of personal and business communication. You can find out more about Sean’s “Measures of Story” book at http://www.howtocreateastory.com.