20 Ways to Destroy Your Speeches

This post has a strange title because, I’m sure your objective is not to destroy your speech. However, if you understand some of the ways we do destroy our speeches, you can avoid making these mistakes and, instead, become a much more impactful speaker.

Here are 20 ways speakers destroy their speeches. Some of the points have explanations while some don’t. I strongly suggest that you find a speaker buddy and discuss at least a few of these mistakes.


Note: I’ve made absolutely all of these mistakes at times during my career. That’s how I know how damaging they can be.


Mistake #1: Rushing

Most speakers know that rushing is bad for business. After all, “You can’t rush and resonate.” However, it’s important to understand WHY speakers rush. Most of the time it’s because the speaker is trying to say too much in too little time. The old speaker proverb says, “When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.” There’s no time for connection when you’re rushing through your material.


Mistake #2: They take too long to get to their stories


Mistake #3: Once they get to their stories, they take too long to get to their conflict


Mistake #4: They establish the conflict but they don’t ESCALATE it


Mistake #5: They don’t tease them before they tell them


Mistake #6: There’s no emotional change in the story’s main character


Mistake #7: They add humor rather than uncovering it.

There are numerous ways to uncover humor without having to go on a detour to do so. In fact, I developed an entire course called Humor Speaking Secrets that covers 33 ways to uncover humor and keep your audience laughing all the way through your speech. It’s one of the courses in my Speak and Prosper Academy.


Mistake #8: They don’t have a “Foundational Phrase” that’s fewer than 10 words, audience-focused, and easy to remember and repeat


Mistake #9: They don’t use a mix of anchors (anecdotes, analogies, activities, acronyms, audio-visuals, etc.) to keep the energy high and help their audience members remember their points


Mistake #10: They speak to everybody instead of speaking to one and looking to all.

For example, they say, “How many of you have been here before…” instead of saying, “Raise your hand if you’ve been here before” or “Have you ever been here before.” You should sound like you’re speaking to one person (grammatically) rather than speaking to hundreds. I wouldn’t walk up to one person and say, “How many of you have here before?” Therefore, I shouldn’t say that onstage. I WOULD say to one person, “Have you ever been here before?” If I can say it to one person, I can say it that same way onstage. Just remember to look to all when you ask it.


Mistake #11: They don’t give looks before, during, and after delivering their lines of dialogue. Remember, like my friend Darren LaCroix says, “Reactions tell the story.”


Mistake #12: They don’t sell the results of heeding their message.

For example, let’s say you speak on the topic of marketing.  Instead of selling them on creating a marketing plan, first sell them on the opportunity of gaining new customers and, later on, introduce the concept of the marketing plan. After all, their goal is not a marketing plan, it’s having more customers.

What are the results your audience members will get from your speech?


Mistake #13: They don’t become the characters in their stories.

I see many speakers who have characters that all look and sound alike. While being subtle, it’s important to use posture, positioning, facial expressions, and maybe even a slight change in your voice to differentiate one character from another. Dialogue is the heart of a story. Make sure you master it. If you want to get 7 times the amount of laughs in your speech, make sure you use the 7 different types of dialogue I describe in this FREE Virtual Seminar.


Mistake #14: They’re not conversational.

Remember, while in your story, you can be as wild and crazy as the story takes you. However, when you’re speaking directly to your audience, it should be, and feel, conversational.


Mistake #15: They’re too theatrical.

Remember, speaking is NOT a stage-play. It’s a dialogue with your audience. Speakers that get onstage and act like they’re in a Shakespearean play will usually not connect with their audience.


Mistake #16: They speak like they write.

You don’t want to sound like you’re delivering a spoken article. Instead, it’s important to speak like you talk, not like you write. For example, if you don’t usually use a word like “ponder” in your everyday conversations, why should you use it onstage? It’s not the authentic you. If you do use ponder on a regular basis, use it onstage too. The best speakers are themselves onstage.


Mistake #17: They give what I call “Slope speeches.”

These are speeches that start off really well (on a very high level) and then go downhill. This is usually a result of one ineffective rehearsal problem that many speakers have. They always rehearse from the beginning of their speech.

Let’s say you have a 30-minute speech that is split up into 3 major points. What many speakers do is practice from the beginning (point #1) and then go through the rest. But what happens when they’re inevitably interrupted by life? They usually go back and start over again with point #1. So point #1 gets lots of attention while points 2 and 3 starve. I suggest that you practice one point (one module) at a time and don’t always do it in order. Then, when you actually get onstage, you can bring it all together for your audience and it will also still be fresh for you.


Mistake #18: They don’t provide their audience with a Roadmap.

It’s important to let your audience know where they’re going on this journey. For example, I say, “These 4 R will lead you to get remarkable results in your business and in your life.” Now my audience knows we’re going from one R to the next R to the next R and so on. This makes it easy for them to follow along.

Be creative with your Roadmap (i.e. 4 Steps, 3 keys, 5 tools, etc.). You might also spell it out for them like I do when I say, “First you’ll pick up tools one how to Craft your message, then you’ll get tools on how to Deliver your message, and finally, you’ll get tools on how to Sell your message so your audience takes the exact next step you want them to take.” This helps my audience follow along with the roadmap of  CRAFT, DELIVER, and SELL.


Mistake #19: They don’t give a Big Promise.

Your audience needs to know WHY they are there. They should be excited about being there. For example, I say. “By the time you leave here today, you’ll have the tools to keep your audience on the edge of their seats and make them glad they came.” Or “In the next 45 minutes, you’ll pick up the tools you can use to become the kind of leader that others respect, admire, and want to follow.”


Mistake #20: They don’t record their speeches.

Each speech you give can get exponentially better if you record and listen to the ones you’ve already given. It’s not about looking for what you did wrong. It’s about seeing what you did right so you can do it more often. It’s about seeing where you can uncover more humor. It’s about taking out what might be considered boring. It’s about testing and tweaking so you can touch more lives. Remember: What gets recorded gets rewarded.



Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s something you can reference to make sure you stay away from these mistakes. I wish you the absolute best in your upcoming speeches and I wish the same for your audiences.

As always, if this post is helpful to you, please feel free to share it.  


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Craig Valentine

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