Six Common Beginner Mistakes in Public Speaking

The best public speakers continuously level up their speaking strategies and skills. They know that it is constant improvement that makes them excel in their craft. Public speaking is an acquired skill, and that makes room for lifelong learning. While learning this skill, you could be making mistakes that can hamper your credibility as a speaker.

As a beginner at public speaking, try to avoid these mistakes as much as possible -

Lack of Preparation

Due to a lack of preparation, the delivery of the speech gets interrupted, the speaker becomes nervous, and the overall quality goes down. However, this common “mistake” is actually totally avoidable. The answer is simple – practice. Preparations can help ease the anxiety regarding facing the audience. Incorporate the use of body language, speech etiquettes, posture during the preparation stage itself. With repetitive practice, you will feel much more comfortable in front of the audience. Rehearsing in front of a mirror is a great technique to prepare well in advance.

Lack of Public Speaking Preparation

Speaking Too Slow or Too Fast

When the stage is there, great speakers take their time. Your presentation is not a race to sit down, despite your brain telling you “the audience is not interested” or “you’re speaking too slow”. Trust us, you’re not. Speaking too quickly creates too much mental work for the audience. First, the audience's attention starts wandering, and then slowly audience also starts losing interest. Eventually, they are tuned out completely. Talking slowly also bores the audience, and that eventually leads to disengagement. Hence, keeping the speech modulated is crucial. Take a deep breath, trust that you know the material, and speak the way you would want if you were listening.

Reading Word to Word from the Slides

When using a visual aid such as a PowerPoint presentation, reading from the slides is never the most engaging way to present. It gives the impression that you don't know the topic of the speech or have taken no effort in preparing for the speech. An alternative to this is to refer only to the main points from the paper and then elaborate on them. While doing so, sustaining eye contact with the audience also makes the speaker confident. Once again, practice is the key.

Dull Introduction and No Conclusion

The audience always remembers the start and the end of the speech. Make the most of it by investing time in crafting the right kind of introduction. There are numerous ways to open the speech such as a personal anecdote, a humorous story, or a quote from a notable figure. The bottom line is – grab the audience’s attention. The beginning and end should be comfortable and is your first chance to endear yourself to the audience. When coming to the end of the speech, it should never be abrupt and make the audience wonder about "What did just happen?". An apt concluding statement or a friendly interaction with the audience is a good way to end the speech. Of course, always thank the audience for their time.

Dull Introduction and No Conclusion in Public Speaking

Making the Speech Too Long

Making an impact with the words within a stipulated time is what makes your speech powerful. Suppose you are allotted 15 mins to present your idea, and you end up making it 1 hour. No audience likes to wait for a long time, and in most cases, they even lose interest. Long story short, don't drag your speech beyond the time limit. Even in one-on-one discussions be deliberate not to make them too long. The idea is to structure the words clearly and manage the length of the speech without slowing down or hurrying up.

Having Low or No Energy

Speaking with no purpose or passion can create a similar type of energy amongst the audience. Define what kind of energy you want to bring to the speech. Are you giving an informative speech? Bring in enthusiastic energy. Are you trying to be persuasive? Bring a serious, passionate tone full of conviction. Bring in the appropriate energy according to the kind of speech. The best kind of enthusiasm and demeanor isn’t forced. Instead, your familiarity with your content will allow you as a speaker to display your wonderful personality. After all, the audience is there to see you. Give them a show!

Summary

As a beginner at public speaking, avoid some of the common mistakes above such as neglecting to prepare, speaking at an undesirable speed, giving a dull introduction, and bringing in the unmatched energy at the stage. Remember, practice is power.

To help you practice your performing prowess, 98thPercentile is here to help! Verbal fillers (like, um, so) are a main obstacle for many speakers, but luckily, there are various methods and tips that beginners can use to combat this speech villain. Check our public speaking program here.

98thPercentile is a growing e-learning company that provides after-school enrichment programs in Math, English, Coding and Public Speaking for students of Grades K-12. Register for our 4 weeks free trial classes today.

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