There are a ton of things that can either make you a better speaker, or not. And personally I think it varies from person to person. Some can get away with being theatrical and over-the-top. Others, not so much.
Take slouching for example. This gets associated with a lack of confidence and being “unprofessional.” I would never advise anyone to slouch. But that doesn’t mean that some speakers can’t pull it off. It just depends on the style of the speaker AND also who’s in the audience. If the audience is full of slouchers and slackers, maybe they don’t want to see Johnny Straight-Up. That make sense?
So there are a lot of rules that can be broken. With that being said, here are 5 “Don’ts” that could make just about anyone a better speaker.
1) Don’t imitate another speaker
The title says it all. Too many times I’ve seen people trying to act like someone they’re not. The inauthenticity smells putrid to an audience. Why not just be you? For one, it’s unique and two, it gives you less things to worry about when speaking. Imagine having to remember how to be somebody else. Wouldn’t that take your focus off the other important stuff, like the audience or your content?
2) Don’t plan or script gestures
Leave the theatrics at home. Just gesture as you would when talking to your next door neighbor who borrowed your tools and lost them. You’d be animated for sure, but it would be natural. This, like trying to be someone else, gives you less to stress about when it comes to your delivery.
Imagine in your head you’re thinking “Is this when I’m supposed to throw my arms up to the sky like Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in the movie The Shawshank Redemption? No wait, it’s supposed to be at the end of the conclusion.” Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Not.
3) Don’t memorize
This is the top contributor to the non-profit organization “Mind Going Blank.” If you’d like to donate, by all means memorize your next presentation word for lovely word.
Can you see a side theme that I’ve laced the first three with? It’s this: We only have a finite amount of mental resources available to us, so dedicate them to the important things (audience and your message?)
Now, couple that with the fact that nervousness also sucks that mental juice like a newborn sucks the fountain of breast, and you’re running pretty low…
Don’t force yourself to have to focus on more than is necessary.
4) Don’t speak about something you know nothing about
This one sounds obvious enough. What’s your preference? Speak about something you actually care about or something you know nothing about, nor care about? It’s a tough decision so I’ll give you time. Time’s up.
Yeah. Go the easy route and pick something you give a crap about. The sincerity and passion will shine through.
5) Don’t wander
In case you’re thinking to yourself, “What the heck does that mean?” I’ll explain. It’s when you wander around aimlessly when speaking in front of an audience, and usually it’s related to nervousness.
I used to do it A LOT. I’d say something, stop, walk across the stage, stop again, say something and back I went. Back and forth, back and forth. I had no clue what I was doing but I later found out. I was distracting the audience with my predictable wandering.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move around on stage if you can. Take for example a TED Talk which is like a jail cell for speakers. You’re stuck on a red circle like from the game Twister.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are a wanderer like I was. In fact, that would be my advice to you. Just stand sturdy and stay put.
This will help you eradicate the “wanders.” Once you get the hang of that, then try and venture out to purposeful stage movement.
There you have it. I’ve given you 5 “Don’t-even-think-about-it’s” that are going to make you a better speaker. Don’t do them.
P.S. BOOK LAUNCH! As you may know, my book was launched last month. First off, let me just say that the support for it has been INCREDIBLE! It even reached the top of the Public Speaking category and was sitting there for 2 days straight! That took a lot of support 🙂 Thank you!!!
If you still haven’t picked up the book, it’s available on Amazon. The reviews have been stellar. Here’s the direct Amazon book page to get it: http://www.amazon.com/Perfectionists-Guide-Public-Speaking-Confidence-ebook
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