Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 18, 2009 5:39 PM

Six Common (But Overlooked) Speaking Mistakes

When having to get up in front of a group to present, it's always important to remember, know and master the basics of what makes a presentation great (those include structure, knowing your content, making eye contact, hand gestures, etc...).

There is no doubt about it, the big things that will take a presentation from good to great are critical at every level in your professional development. While you're at it, it's also important to remember the little things that make even bigger differences. Sometimes fixing up and focusing on a few of the little things can also take your presentations to the next level.

Here are six common (but often overlooked) speaking mistakes: 

  1. Hands in the pockets. Speakers tend to think that keeping their hands in their pockets helps make them looked relax. From an audience perspective it doesn't. In fact, hands in the pockets registers in the audience's mind as someone who is hiding something or is not that interested in being there.
  2. Leaning on the podium. This one if very similar to #1. Again, the speaker feels like if they lean on the podium it's demonstrating a level of comfort, when in reality it gives off the aura that the speaker is tired, bored or just plain lazy. I've never seen a great speaker who leans on a podium.
  3. Crossing your arms. Even if it's freezing on stage or you're just trying to demonstrate your presence, crossing your arms closes you off from the audience. It's amazing what open arms and keeping your heart open and in the direction of your audience can do for your presentation presence. Crossing your arms is almost as bad as turning your back to the audience.
  4. Repeating content you already discussed because it's on another slide. This is one of the reasons many people are calling for the death of PowerPoint presentations. A presentation is a time to tell a story and share information you have with an audience. If you've already covered off a point, but that same point shows up later in the PowerPoint presentation, feel free to skip over that point entirely. Some speakers will say things like, "even though, I have covered this before..." and then proceed to repeat themselves. The audience is smart. If you make a point and it shows up later in the presentation again, please skip it. The audience will appreciate you more for not belabouring a finished thought.
  5. Speaking to the slide. Some speakers love their slides just a little too much. Don't ever say things like, "this is an interesting slide," or "I really like the content on this slide." You're in the middle of presenting valuable content. No one cares about what you think about the slide, they care about your content, you and the story.
  6. Using the slide as the content and not as the visual support. Always remember that the slide is not the content. You are. The slide is there as a visual support to your content and stories. It's there to enhance your voice and presence through graphics, images and words. Better yet, consider your slide visual anchors that will help people to remember the content that is coming out of your mouth.

Do you have any additional common (but overlooked) speaking mistakes to add?

By Mitch Joel