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The 3 Cardinal Sins of Public Speaking

Regardless of subject matter or the speaking style of a presenter, there are three overriding mistakes that speakers often make, each one of which can seriously diminish the impact of a speech.  Avoid these three items and you are well on your way to successful presentation.

Being unclear on your goals. Presentations should be made with a goal in mind. Not so much the ultimate goal (attracting investment, gaining new clients, selling your product or service) as the immediate goal of the presentation. Focus on the short-term goal, which may be as modest as beginning a conversation, booking a follow-up meeting, or sparking an interest in your company. With that specific goal in mind you can organize your presentation in a way that will maximize that possibility.  Without a specific goal, you are more liable to ramble and be disorganized, diminishing your chance of success.

Saying too much. One comment you never hear after a speech is, “That was fascinating, I wish she had gone on much longer”. Those who are enthusiastic and passionate about a subject tend to overspeak their case.  The highly educated often speak technically and over the head of the audience, seeking to emphasize their expertise and competence (while ultimately losing the audience).  The entrepreneur feels compelled to say everything that is good about his company; the politician recites a laundry list of every accomplishment she has had.

It is ALWAYS better to leave the audience craving more information than to watch them shut down due to data overload.  Say enough to get them interested and then remain available after your remarks to answer questions.  Sharing your knowledge in a question-and-answer format helps in two ways – you are speaking to the areas of interest to your audience, as they determine the questions.  Also, your credibility as an expert is reinforced as you demonstrate your knowledge through your ability to answer questions on your subject.

Reciting your speech. Presentations that are read aloud or memorized word-for-word and recited verbatim are stiff and distant in nature. The most successful speeches are those that connect on a personal level with the audience.  Public speaking is most effective if it is conversational in nature.  Prepare and hone your remarks, but give them as though you were talking to friends.  At the end of the day, people prefer doing business with people that they like, so always let your personality shine through your speech.

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