WATCH 3 MIN. VIDEO: Presentation Blunders Toastmasters Commercial
I compose video storyboards to accompany the articles I write for various publications, albeit, they aren’t dramatic. I compose and direct video scripts for businesses, primarily for in-house training purposes, starring the CEO, the employees, seasoned with clientele testimonies. I also coach high-visibility people in the delivery of certain presentations, for example, crisis management.
My writing wunderkind is embellished by community gigs where I’m privileged to practice in a forum with or without the use of equipment and the editing. The ultimate testing ground of my creative bundle -- an article, the video, the music is this Patch gig. I thank the readership.
One of my clients, Richard, suggested I address the TOP FIVE, public speaking faux pas in my blog, especially since he obtained a plenary speaking engagement for which I’m coaching him. To give you an idea of Richard’s appearance and background: The man stands six-feet, four inches tall. He’s 45 years of age. His blonde hair color contrasts his jade green eyes and tanned skin tone. You’ll never see him wearing jeans, rather, khaki shorts and polo shirts with loafers, no socks and a leather belt. He hates wearing socks. Richard’s wife, Glenna, wanted me to share that idiosyncrasy. He calls himself a moderate athlete. He’s in the legal profession, therefore, he addresses a variety of forums. He’s a seasoned speaker and he wants to polish up his repertoire. I’m sharing the top five suggestions we focused on while refining Richard’s presence. In my opinion, the TOP FIVE, public speaking challenges are as follows:
1. Unnecessary filler words are bothersome, quirky and unnoticeable when YOU say them. The next time you watch a talk show, listen to either a speaker on the radio or to someone on the phone, you’ll hear a lot of filler words. Soooo? Really, who cares? Uuummm, to some degree, like, the audience does. Filler words thoroughly detract from an individual’s pedigree, profession, persuasion AND from the message being conveyed. Profanity is a *&^% Bozo No-No. Using foul language doesn’t emphasize anything, like, ummm, derogatory remarks or frothy situations, ya know?
Suggestion: Choose BETTER words in brief silence. Collect and continue your thoughts. As a beginning practice, this is more uncomfortable for the speaker than for the audience. Try it in every day conversation, eliminating unecessary filler words, ya know? Ummm, like, okay? Soooo, pause for a few seconds instead of rambling on.
2. Richard introduces himself and his laudable, numerous credentials -- which should be printed on the program or agenda underneath his PROFESSIONAL headshot. He gets right to the point at the beginning of his speeches. He doesn’t warm up to the audience, first. His paradigm is a court of law. However, the audience-to-be is neither on trial, nor adversarial.
Suggestion: SMILE! Who’s YOUR audience and what do you have in common with them? Warm up those friendly faces by sharing ONE POSITIVE, INSPIRING snippet about traffic, local news, family, business. Disclose something universally understood, for example: Finding a parking space way, way out in the parking lot imposing a long walk; Losing a ten dollar bill and finding it tucked away in your wallet; reading a text message of love and encouagement from your children. Is your audience comprised of professional colleagues? Family members at a reunion? Wedding guests? Memorial service guests? A jury? Donors? You get the idea. Always welcome those in attendance – FIRST. Briefly acknowledge their presence, concern, willingness and the time they’re sharing with you.
3. A fidgeting speaker is distracting at best and lackluster, at worst. Richard jingles the coinage in his pants pocket and he uses a hankie to wipe his perspiring brow quite a bit. He constantly apologizes for the latter and he’s not conscious of the prior, but both are palpable by an empathetic audience.
Suggestion: Go forth in peace. It’s okay to wipe your brow, take a sip of water, breathe deeply, doing whatever’s necessary to collect yourself, as needed. Just DO it as a part of your presentation without calling attention to or apologizing for the NERVOUS, NEEDED BREAK in your speech. We’re all human. Move forward, impeccably, briefly and silently while quenching your anxiety. Remove the small change from your pants pockets before the presentation. Over time, you’ll have quelled a noisy, nervous gesture.
4. Richard wears designer suits, most of the time. Understandably, he calls them, ‘uniforms’. Suits connote a power and an authority which can become wholly diminished because they’re layered and hot, even in air conditioned rooms. Quick! Adjust the tie. Unbutton the jacket. This brings me back to perspiring for a different reason: Apparel. If you’re representing the military, public safety, or an organization which demands a uniform, wear it, per the protocol. Don’t forget to shine your shoes. Bring a hankie and bottled water.
Suggestion: Who’s your audience? I keep asking the same question. The answer is the FOUNDATION to building a great presentation and looking good, too. I’m no fashionista for menswear, however, donning khakis with a polo shirt (embroidered with the company logo) and polished loafers appears physically cooler. An expensive suit can look and feel like a wet dishcloth on a soggy speaker, no matter how many times he mops his brow and his neck line.
In addition, the audience feels uncomfortable, too. I know a few CEOs who wear casual jeans and an untucked dress shirt when formally (that’s the operative word) addressing the masses. Harrumph. It’s reminiscent of high school, the college arena or a super casual forum. Kick up the presentation a notch or two; nix the jeans for presentations, sermons or professional gatherings. Khakis look more appealing and authoritative across the board.
Women are usually attuned to attire and to the audience. Honestly, attire and accessories are the first thing women assess on a female speaker. Too tight, too short and too revealing is best left for a…targeted…forum. In contrast, ill-fitting, exceedingly long gowns, stiletto shoes, hats, sparkling bling and shoulder wraps can shroud a woman’s best features like a blanket. Male or female, apparel restricting one’s motion and general comfort impedes focus.
Tending to persnickety clothing rather than to the captive audience is distracting for everyone. Think: wardrobe malfunction prevention. Simple is sweeter.
5. Way, way too long. I’m talking about the presentation length. When writing scripts, the specs are defined down to the font size: 12 point courier, double-spaced, one-inch margins. Why? One page is equivalent to one minute. I use the same formula for writing speeches: 30 minutes is equivalent to 30 pages, etc. Then I read the piece aloud using a stopwatch to calculate the time frame, editing for such.
Suggestion: Listen, an audience’s time is your time for the duration of a presentation. Please don’t hold them hostage by speaking one minute OVER the time allotment by saying one MORE thing, no matter how notable you or the information may be. Aim to finish, with calm finesse, a little under the wire. Richard’s granted one hour (60 minutes) for his presentation. 55 minutes will leave the audience wanting MORE and feeling LESS anxious about THEIR respective itineraries. NEVER disregard the audience’s time.
I’ve attached a three-minute Toastmasters commercial addressing common public speaking blunders. Toastmasters is a friendly learning lab, where imperfection and guests are always welcome.
Lynda StarWriter is a freelance writer and a public speaker. email@example.com