There is always evidence of a poor public speaker. Sometimes it is so obvious the speaker is practically booed off the stage. But sometimes it is more subtle. They get the job done, but not very well.
Since you are reading this article, I think it is a safe assumption that you don’t want to be a poor public speaker. You want to know what these characteristics are and how to turn them around. Well, you’re in luck! Keep reading and I’ll share five characteristics of a poor public speaker and how to change things around so you no longer have that characteristic.
#1. Poor Public Speakers Don’t Understand Their Audience
When you neglect to tailor your message to those who are listening, you will fall flat. If you want an audience to listen, you must talk to them about why what you are sharing matters to them. Talk about them, and they will listen; talk about you, and they will tune out.
One bad habit of public speakers is to use the same speech or presentation, regardless of the audience. When you are in an audience and hear what sounds like a canned speech with generic examples, you immediately stop listening, because you have no idea what is in it for you. Knowing your audience is the most essential part in professional public speaking because it is what ensures that your listeners can connect with your content as well as you.
Learn about your audience before you go on stage. There are a number of ways you can do that. I cover some in Know Your Audience, Part 4 – Researching Your Audience.
#2. Bad Public Speakers Are Distracting
There are many things speakers do that are distracting to their audience members, and most of the time, the speaker is not even aware that they are doing these. Featured Speaker Arvee Robinson often shares how she learned about a verbal “tick” she had distracted people from what she had to say, thus reducing sales.
Distracting phrases and body movements are often the result of nervous energy and include a variety of movements, hand gestures, facial expressions, and verbalized pauses that can prevent the audience from focusing on your important message.
Recording yourself while you practice in front of other people can help you identify these behaviors so that you can work on getting them under control. Try watching the video at double speed with no sound. That will help you identify distracting body language. Listen to the video with your eyes closed to uncover verbal distractions.
#3. A Poor Public Speaker Is Not Prepared
It is obvious to your audience when you have not practiced your speech enough or are not knowledgeable about your topic. Preparing your speech, organizing your presentation, and studying your notes are all extremely important, and when you skip these steps, the listeners will know.
There is no substitute for adequate rehearsal. period. Practice, practice, practice! Do not skip this crucial step.
#4. Talking without Pauses
Giving a public speech is not a race to the finish line. But you wouldn’t know that by listening to some speakers! Rushing through your content tells your audience that you are
- likely extremely nervous and just want to be done, and
- have little interest in whether they are engaged in your presentation.
Pauses help your audience to process information, consider important questions, and reflect on how they might use this information in their own lives. Giving them time to think throughout your talk is important, so build this into your speech. If you are so constrained by the time that you can’t stop talking, then you are trying to say too much. Less is more.
Make friends with silence. Here is some further reading to help you:
#5. A Poor Public Speaker Talks to the Screen
If you are using visual aids, especially PowerPoint, you should not be talking to the screen while you are speaking, and you MOST DEFINITELY should not be reading from what is on the screen to the audience. Using visual aids should enhance your speech. If the screen is not adding to what you are saying, then why is it there? Learning to use visual aids is an important public speaking skill that takes practice. Watching effective public speakers is an effective way to learn how to use this skill well.
Get comfortable with your speech and your visual aids. Design your visual aids to be heavy with images with very little text. Here is some further reading to help you use visual aids much more effectively.
- Stunning Presentations Require Stunning Slides (Day 30, Speaking Palooza 2019)
- Visual Aid Tips Gleened from SlideShare
- The 7 Deep Craters PowerPoint Users Often Fall Into and How to Avoid Them
Know Your Audience in Advance
Before you plan and promote your business event, you need to know who your audience is.
You will need to do some research on what their desires and pain points are, what language they use when talking about or seeking information about your topic, and ask some questions about your ideal audience members.
Download this Audience Pre-Check Starter Form to help you know which questions to ask.