Public Speaking – The Top Ten Illusions That Doom Presentations

A presentation, whether to a small group or large audience, is your moment in the spotlight. Many people miss out on that spotlight — or blow it — because of some misplaced belief. Here are the top ten illusion I’ve heard over my training career that can doom presentations and presenters.

10. “I just wing it.” You may think you’re better “off the cuff.”

But the reality is when you haven’t prepared or aren’t well-organized, you risk a rambling dialogue and unclear message.

9. “This is my speech and I’m sticking to it.”

Illusion: the speech is good as it is regardless of the audience. Reality: every audience is different, and if you don’t relate to and adapt to their unique needs and interests, you don’t have much chance of connecting.

8. “I don’t need visuals-they detract from my presentation.”

You may believe visuals are crutches that will make a presentation seem hokey. But without visuals to help reinforce your main ideas, your audience might not understand or remember your points.

7. “I couldn’t give a presentation without lots of elaborate PowerPoint.”

A prevalent illusion today is that PowerPoint slides — and lots of them — will wow the audience and make you look high tech and impressive. But realize that overdone visuals result in the medium overtaking the message and detracting from you.

6. “I have to have notes, preferably all written out.”

You may want to stick to a script because you won’t forget anything and will say everything perfectly. Recognize that when you’re over-reliant on notes, you tend to read the notes instead of deliver the ideas, which results in poor eye communication, low energy, and no connection with audience.

5. “The facts speak for themselves.”

Translation: lots of facts or statistics offer impressive evidence that validates your information. However, numbers and raw facts can be overwhelming and meaningless without interpretation or explanation. The key to giving your numbers meaning is to humanize your information. This means use anecdotes, analogies, examples, stories, audience involvement or demonstrations to give meaning and context to your information.

4. “I have to get everything in.”

Speakers have a strong, if mistaken, urge that everything they have to say on the subject is very important and audiences need to hear it all. The truth is, audiences are more interested in getting out on time. Respecting time limits is the mark of a good speaker.

3. “I don’t care what people think of me — I just say what has to be said.”

Illusion: because you’re ultra confident and know you’re right, it doesn’t matter what the audience thinks — it’s the principle of the matter. Reality: audiences don’t generally respond favorably to arrogance. If you want to be persuasive, you can’t be from simply being right. You have to know what motivates your audience and then appeal to those motivations; show them what’s in it for them.

2. “I’ve got to be taken seriously.”

If you take yourself too seriously, it usually results in a deadly dull presentation. Energy, humor, dynamism will enliven your presentation and engage your audience.

1. “I’m not a good public speaker.”

In other words, you’re panic-stricken at the prospect of addressing a group and therefore believe you’ll blow it. But the thing is, everyone is nervous about public speaking. But it’s never killed anyone, so it’s not a good enough reason to miss the opportunities for exposure that are crucial to anyone’s career success. You’ll be a lot better and more comfortable if you practice, practice, practice. And, of course — get some good training.

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Barbara Busey, president of the training firm Presentation Dynamics, has been a professional speaker, trainer and author since 1990. She does training and speaking on the “dynamics” of how people “present” themselves, is the author of the book, “Stand Out When You Stand Up,” and is the creator of The Compelling Speaker, a unique presentation skills training program that combines advance audio CD instruction with a hands-on, ultra participative workshop. She now offers the Compelling Speaker Certification, a turnkey system — complete with training content & technique, business strategies, and marketing guidelines — that positions communicators to make a living training other business professionals to become more compelling speakers. Go to Compelling Speaker Certification to see her video, listen to her audio, and learn when the next Certification training is.

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