Public Speaking Nightmares: What to Not Do in Front of a Crowd

By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) — For many people who fear public speaking, the precedent was set in childhood. Perhaps they were ridiculed in front of their elementary school class for mispronouncing a word, or for not realizing the fly on their pants was open, or just for seeming nervous and hesitant—and any time after that was fraught with anxiety. Similarly, people who have a talent for public speaking were encouraged as kids and learned from their mistakes rather than cowering from them.

Harry Edelson, a naturally cheerful and eloquent public speaker and a major Wall Street financial analyst, investor and founder of Edelson Technology Partners, took a proactive approach with his two children: “After dinner, my wife and I asked each of our children to give a two-minute speech to the family about a random topic,” Edelson says. “We’d ask them to describe simple things in detail, such as a pencil, a homework assignment or bugs in the garden. They had a great time listening to each other and providing constructive criticism. All of this definitely contributed to their future success, from show-and-tell in school to conducting business meetings and giving presentations.”

As someone who has given hundreds of speeches to groups ranging in size from 50 to 1,500 people, Edelson is well aware of what to do—and more importantly, what not to do—to capture an audience’s attention and make a true impact with a presentation. Here are some behaviors he suggests you avoid, taken from his new book, Positivity: How to Be Happier, Healthier, Smarter, and More Prosperous:

  • Don’t read your speech word-for-word. Staring down at your notecards or reading from your slides without looking at your audience can be alienating. Practice your speech several times beforehand so that you’re familiar enough with your material that you can look up once in a while.
  • Don’t talk away from the microphone. Everyone who shows up to your presentation deserves to hear every word you say, so use the mic. If you’ve never spoken into a mic before, practice using a hairbrush or other makeshift items at home. You also don’t want to talk too close to the mic or your words may become muffled and distorted.
  • Don’t rush to get through slides. If you find you’re running out of time, don’t try to speed up to get through everything. You’ll wind up overwhelming or confusing your audience. Instead, you can put a sign-up sheet at the back of the room and tell people to put their email addresses down. This way you can send them the full presentation for them to finish at their leisure.
  • Don’t go on too long and then start Q&A. A Q&A session is a great addition to any presentation as long as there’s time. Almost worse than speeding through your material to finish on time is droning on and on. People are busy and you should respect their time. If you have to wrap up before people have a chance to ask questions, provide an email address where they can ask their questions directly.
  • Don’t bore the audience. While every speech can’t be fun and games, especially if you’re discussing a serious topic, adding some degree of levity can do a lot to keep your audience engaged. Modulating your tone will keep your audience from falling asleep.

In Positivity, Edelson candidly discusses his extensive personal experience with public speaking and how his success in life is closely tied with his ease in front of a crowd.

Edelson’s book is currently available on Amazon.

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