7 Don’ts for Speakers

The following mistakes will keep you from making the impact you should have and from being the speaker you should be. Be honest in evaluating whether you make the mistakes or not. Then, and only then, can you change them.

1. Don’t use too much set-up before you get into your story. This is a very common mistake I see most speakers make. Let the story be part of the set up and hook us in from the very beginning with a strong conflict.

2. Don’t say unnecessary words such as, “I thought to myself…” Well, who else can you think to?! Just say, “I thought…”

Another one I heard recently was, “I shared the stage with him before he passed away.” I think we’ll know it was before he passed away. The bad news is, guess when I heard this? It was when I listened to one of my own speeches. That’s right, I’m guilty. I said it. The lesson is to listen to your recorded speeches and see what extraneous words and phrases can be pulled.  

3. Don’t leave a point in your speech without teasing for what’s coming next. This is especially important in training sessions when you have 10-15 minutes breaks. If you don’t sufficiently tease for what’s coming up after the break, some of your audience members might not return. Whether you’re giving a speech or a training session, always tease for what’s coming next.

4. Don’t give a speech without having one exact next step for your audience to take after the speech. This next step should have something to do with you. For example, I have given various speeches wherein the next step was to…

Even if the next step is simply to visit your main website, make sure they have a good reason for doing so. The key is to limit your next step to one per speech. Offering several next steps confuses your audience and…

A confused mind says no but a clear mind says go

Keep it simple and clear.  

My Bad Mistake – Just this weekend I had a speech to 500 salespeople at a national conference. At the last minute, my time was cut from 1 hour to 45 minutes. This is fine because I know how to easily adapt my keynote for the allotted time. The problem was I neglected to give my exact next step of visiting 52Speakingtips.com. Therefore, even though I had a good connection, I didn’t give them the chance to learn more from me. I left 500 potential new leads on the table with my mistake.

Lesson? No matter how much your time is cut, never cut the important next step you have for them. After all, it’s one of the reasons you gave the speech in the first place.

5. Don’t schedule the length of your speech to fit the allotted time. For example, if you are called to speak for 45 minutes, do not plan for 45 minutes. Instead, plan for between 35 and 38 minutes. Why? Because someone will have to introduce you and that takes  a few minutes. In addition, it usually takes a few minutes for your audience to settle in before the program begins. Finally, it’s absolutely okay (even advantageous) to finish a bit early. Why? Because you will leave them wanting more instead of wishing they heard less. You want your audience to say, “I could listen to you all day,” rather than, “I feel like I listened to you all day.”

Plus, many event coordinators underestimate how much time is needed to go from one segment of the event to the other. Finishing a couple of minutes early is helpful for them to keep the meeting back on track.

 6. Don’t speak to your wants but to their needs. For example, I have a speech coming up very soon and I want to use a couple of my favorite stories. However, those are not what they need to hear. As a result, I am cutting my favorites and going with the best fit. This might seem obvious to do but, believe me, when you develop stories that hit home-runs with certain audiences, it’s very tempting to use those with other audiences even if it has to stretch to fit. Don’t.

A great story that doesn’t fit is worse than a good story that does

 7. Don’t forget that speaking involves a series of scenes. If you find yourself speaking for several minutes and you have not brought your audience into another scene, chances are your content is becoming loose and your audience is becoming lost. Why? Because your audience does not just want to listen to you, they want to experience you. Stories provide that experience as long as your audience feels like part of the scene.

Craig Valentine

As a motivational speaker I've been fortunate to have spoken in over 20 countries, and back in 1999 Toastmasters International awarded me the World Champion of Public Speaking.

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