I recently had the opportunity to hear a world-renowned public speaker and was surprised as well as disappointed by his delivery. While his message was excellent, his means of delivering that message would have gotten him a C- in my college public speaking class. Without a doubt, content is important in any form of public speaking; however, if your entire script is written out word-for-word in your PowerPoint presentation, why bother? It would be a better use of the audience's time if you would Xerox it, pass it out, and then everyone can go home!
1. Memorizing or reading your entire presentation is a grave mistake. Your audience came to hear you speak to them not read or deliver a rote, memorized performance. Your responsibility is to communicate with your audience, not at them. By treating your audience as if you were having a conversation in your living room, you will find that you are much more comfortable and in better control of your nervousness.
2. Not knowing your material is another serious blunder. If you are not familiar with your words or how your speech or presentation flows, then you are likely to make more errors. Making a mistake or two is not the issue making a lot of them is!
3. Speaking too fast. Controlling your speed is extremely important if you expect your audience to be able understand what you are saying. Listening to someone move at 100 mph takes much more energy than speaking at 75! Incidentally, talking at a furious pace saps the energy of you, the speaker, as well.
4. Staring at an object on the wall. By no means should you focus your attention on a spot on the wall or above the heads of your audience. Look them in the eye. Make the contact with your listeners and you will then be aware of their reaction to you. Remember, public speaking is a form of communication. If you are not making eye contact, then you are not communicating.
5. Running Out of Air. Breathlessness on the podium is one of the most common mistakes made because many novice and even some professional speakers do not think to breathe. If you wait until you are totally out of air, you will then be required to inhale a huge amount in order to fill your lungs. In doing so, you will experience breathlessness and a tightness in your chest. My advice is to learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm truly the best means of controlling nervousness and then practice supplementing your air supply before you are depleted.
These 5 common mistakes can be easily rectified if you know your material, converse with your audience, learn how to control your speed, make eye contact with your listeners and remember to breathe.