Business development · 26 October 2018

5 public speaking mistakes you need to avoid when delivering presentations

presentation mistakes
Many experienced speakers still have butterflies in their stomach before going on stage

I’ve delivered many presentations in the past, I’ve coached many people, held various workshops and watched many speakers live on the stage. I’ve seen a lot of various styles, transformations, amazing achievements and some terrible mistakes all through speaking.

In this article, I want to share five of the most common mistakes I see speakers make and unfortunately, I see them quite often – some more serious than others, some easily rectified but by knowing what they are, you can avoid them in your upcoming presentations to ensure you deliver a presentation that inspires, informs, teaches, sells or any other goal you have in mind.

  1. It’s not about you

Fear of public speaking is more common than you think as many speakers who are experienced and deliver presentation regularly still have butterflies in their stomach before going on stage.

The main concerns that speakers have when it comes to public speaking fear is “what if they laugh at me?”, “what if I make a mistake?”, “what if I get heckled?”, “what if I mess up the presentation?”, “what if the audience ask a question and I don’t know the answers?”.

Do you see a pattern here? One of the reasons people fear public speaking is because they think that presentations are all about them. It’s all about me, the speaker.

It’s a mistake to think this way. Switch your thinking and focus around and instead of asking the questions above, ask yourself these type of questions: “What can I do to make my audience enjoy my presentation?”; “How can I ensure my audience get incredible value?”; “What will my audience find really useful for their business/children/health etc?”; “How can I assist my audience in achieving their goals through this presentation?”.

Focus on your audience! Your presentation is for them and by focusing on them you also achieve the results you desire.

  1. Have a clear, structured message

Another common mistake I often see is that the speaker doesn’t have a clear message. Their presentation, its content, their objection and their structure is all over the place. They deliver their presentation in a way that screams “I haven’t prepared this at all but I’m going to deliver it anyways”.

Plan your presentation in advance – use every minute you have to plan, prepare and practice. Presentations are invaluable. So much can be achieved in a single talk so why would anyone make the mistake of not preparing, planning and practicing ahead of the real thing?

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  1. Dress appropriately

This mistake isn’t relevant only to presentations but in everyday life and that is to dress the part. It doesn’t matter who your audience is, what your topic is on or how big or small the event is – dressing appropriately and smartly is part of the package.

I’ve seen various speakers dress down and look as if they’ve made no effort at all and this doesn’t give the audience much confidence in the speaker or the presentation. Speaking of confidence, dressing the part gives you, the speaker, confidence as well.

Have you ever been at an event where you haven’t dressed the part? Uncomfortable isn’t it? Confidence in your presentation and in yourself is vital and what we wear plays a big part in that.

  1. Appreciate the power of a story

Stories have been a big part of our lives ever since childhood. I share various true stories with my three-year-old and he always asks me to share the story again and again. Why? Stories are powerful! They help open the listener’s mind, learn lessons on their own, feel various emotions and bring facts & statistics to life. The power of stories doesn’t leave us when we reach adulthood. A mistake I often see speakers make is that they focus more on their content i.e. the facts, statistics, the visuals, the teachings, the points etc and they don’t share stories.

Stories are important and if you can back up your facts and data with a relevant story, you bring your information to life, help clarify a point, you connect with your audience better and show your audience that you’re genuine and authentic, which brings us to the final mistake…

  1. …Lying!

I have seen this horrendous mistake being made and it’s awful – awful for both the speaker and the audience. One speaker shared a story about his past, explaining how he was moments away from suicide before he realised he was making a big mistake, picked himself up and now lives a life he loves.

After the event, he confessed to a few people that he made the suicide part up! Terrible, right? Never make something up in order to win your audience over, or sell a product, or raise awareness – you will be caught out eventually, just like the story I shared in this point. I will never trust a word this speaker says.

When it comes to sensitive topics, never lie! Be authentic, be genuine. Not everyone has a rags to riches story, and that’s OK. And you most certainly don’t need to lie in order to sell products or raise investment. Being authentic and genuine is a big part of the speaking and business game.

There are other mistakes of course, but these five are the ones that stick out the most when it comes to speaking and lying is one that you can’t bounce back from if caught and the chances of being caught are high.

Enjoy your presentations – presentations weren’t invented to be frightening, restrictive and stressful. Think of your audience and give them what they need.

Hanieh Vidmar is a speaker, trainer and former TV Presenter. She’s delivered pitches on behalf of other companies, won contracts and raised over £1m in funds. Download Hanieh’s free article “How to Design a Presentation in 60 Minutes or Less

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Hanieh Vidmar is a speaker, trainer and former TV Presenter. She’s delivered pitches on behalf of other companies, won contracts and raised over £1m in funds. Her goal is to help as many people overcome their fears of public speaking so they can achieve bigger and better goals with confidence.