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10 Things to Avoid when Public Speaking

Updated on January 27, 2012

1. Talking too fast

Talking too fast is usually caused by nervousness. It is very distracting and makes it harder for the audience to appreciate what you are saying. Although people who talk too fast are trying to keep the audience's attention and get through to them better, they wind up alienating them. Many people also simply cannot understand a person who talks too quickly. Make sure to speak at a normal, steady rate from start to finish.

2. Poor posture

Having confident posture projects authority and commands attention. Poor posture communicates a lack of authority on your subject, a lack of enthusiasm and can also throw off your balance, making your presentation that much more difficult and stressful.

3. Talking too quietly

Speaking too quietly is an especially grave offense because if people cannot hear you, there is no point in giving the presentation in the first place. Gauging the right volume for each new venue will take some learning experience for new speakers. If you are having trouble calibrating your voice, it is better to speak too loudly than too softly. One common tip is to focus on speaking to the people farthest away, in the farthest row. If they can hear you, then everyone else in the audience will too.

4. Being disorganized

Always have a clear concept of what you are going to say and how you will organize the information. Your presentation does not have to be tightly scripted, but it should be organized enough for you to give a clear and easily understood presentation. A disorganized speaker is difficult and tedious to listen to.

5. Giving poor examples

Examples, analogies or anecdotes should support your main points and enhance understanding, not impede it. Part of the whole idea of examples is that they should be simpler and more easily grasped than the main points they are clarifying. If they are not, you will simply confuse everyone even more. Avoid complicated examples and meandering stories. Make them concise and simple.

6. Using too many words

This is different from talking too fast. Using too many words dilutes the significance of any given point in your presentation. Instead, try to summarize and simplify everything to not only fit within the allotted time constraints, but to also fit within people’s patience constraints. Using too many words to express yourself will not help the audience understand anything better. Use fewer words, and each word will have more power and communicative value.

7. Going off on tangents

This is essentially a case of distracting yourself. Avoid unrelated topics unless they serve some constructive purpose (like humor). Even if they seem interesting, too many of these diversions will drastically water down the presentation and reduce the audience’s understanding. Distracting yourself often happens with a presentation that is poorly organized from the start. If you have a clear agenda for yourself, you minimize your risk of going off on tangents.

8. Not getting to the point

Not “getting to the point” throughout your speech will significantly weaken your image. People want to hear what you have to say, and move on. It often helps to provide a summary or synopsis of your major points at the beginning of the presentation so people know what to expect and have a framework for listening to you. Throughout the speech, you can continue to summarize before getting into details on each main topic.

9. Not dressing well for the event/ audience

Clothes make a difference. Whether a well-tailored business suit at a corporate seminar or t-shirt and jeans at a talk for IT freelancers, you must dress appropriately for the occasion. The way you dress will communicate to your audience about your professionalism, knowledge on your subject, and overall relevance. Fashion is a silent language that constantly gives people around you information about yourself.

10. Not relaxing

Relaxing is as much for the audience’s benefit as for yours. Tense or nervous speakers are very distracting because they are constantly making verbal or facial ticks, or using excessive and distracting hand gestures, and general poor body language. All of these distract the audience from the message trying to be delivered. Many of the mistakes on this list stem from not being relaxed enough.


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    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 5 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, Jainismus

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Many speakers are victims of such things. This Hub can help them. Avoiding these things can make them better speaker. Practice of good habits at speaking will make them a good speaker.

      Voted up and shared.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 5 years ago from New York City

      It's very easy to allow ego to get in the way, great point.

    • profile image

      Magicood 5 years ago

      Perfect summary! I would also add "speaking to your audience" meaning make sure what you are saying is relevant to what the audience wants to hear. Just because it's interesting to you, does not mean your audience will jive with it. Remember, speaking is for the audience to learn and feel connected to what you are saying, it is not for your ego!

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 5 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. It's easy to get overwhelmed. I would say take it one step at a time. Pick one item, such as posture, and work on that for a while. Then, move on to the next item, and so on.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image

      ExpectGreatThings 5 years ago from Illinois

      I dislike public speaking so much that just reading this hub made me nervous. These are great points, though. Unfortunately, I have a feeling I am guilty of all of them. Nice job being concise and informative.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, Nicomp. Experience is definitely key. Practice makes perfect.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Great advice. Public speaking can be terrifying, but the fear usually subsides somewhat after a few iterations.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

      John, great to hear. Best of luck, and I'm glad I could help.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 6 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      I have always had a problem when public speaking. When a teacher, I had to frequently address the parent teacher organization. I dreaded it - although I tried not to show it. I am going over these 10 ideas the next time I must speak in public. Have bookmarked the hub. Thanks.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

      Armenian--thank you. Very true, real world experience is key to improving over time.

      Giocatore--thank you, glad you liked it.

      Joyus--absolutely, and I should know since I have made those mistakes many times!

      Thanks for visiting, everybody.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Very nice and succinct!

    • Joyus Crynoid profile image

      Joyus Crynoid 6 years ago from Eden

      Good one secularist. Points 4-8 also apply to the writing of hubs.

    • giocatore profile image

      giocatore 6 years ago

      Useful, succinct, voted up. thanks for sharing. cheers.

    • guyjackson profile image

      Guyene Jackson 6 years ago from USA

      Most of us are becoming nervous when speak in public. This hub will help a lot to get out of this nervousness. A very useful hub for all kind of people.

    • Armenian profile image

      Armenian 6 years ago from Armenia

      Nice and useful hub. Some points can be considered before talking in public, but only experience can make you feel confident in the public, speak to the point in an organized way and bring strong examples :-)

    • webbience profile image

      webbience 6 years ago

      If you control the tongue, you control everything. Listening is more important speaking... Listen now and speak later after at least brief analysis.


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