Four Ways to Kill a Good Presentation Speech

Many business owners and community leaders who wish to take their enterprises to the next level eventually realize one important thing: proper public speaking skills are necessary weapons in one’s arsenal for corporate success. One of your corporate goals should be to enhance your speaking abilities.

Anyone can become a dynamic speaker. Anyone. Most of the time, though, on the path to success, there are stumbling blocks along the way. Locate and demolish them. Those blocks and boulders can kill an otherwise great speech. Here’s a small list of some of the obstacles that get in the way of a powerful presentation:

  1. Starting the speech too informally. Projecting power onstage right from the start is an important element of any speech. When you approach the lectern and start your presentation, you should take command and grab the audience’s attention right away. Immediately. Don’t fidget or mumble, and for heaven’s sake, never start your speech with the word “okay.” This word became such a problem in many of one professor’s speech workshops that he promised to scream if anyone started a speech with “okay.” You can imagine the shocked faces of the students who committed this infraction when they heard a high-pitched scream coming from the professor’s mouth... but they learned to avoid using a weak opening.

  2. Reading too much from the material. The audience doesn’t want narration—if folks wanted a line-by-line text overview, they’d have asked you to xerox the paper and distribute it to them. They want your dynamics behind the text, so make your reading exciting; put effort into meaningful voice intonation and appropriate pacing instead of reading aloud in monotone. You should memorize your entire presentation with the exception of a quote or small fragment that you may read word-for-word from your notes. Check the outline, sure, but don’t become a reader. Overt reading gives the impression that you haven’t prepared.

  3. Not maintaining eye contact. Your audience is telling you something every time you set foot on stage. Listen to them. They seem to be saying, “Hey, I’m in your audience, and I want you to look me in the eye if you’re serious about your message. Please don’t look away. The wall isn’t human, and neither is the floor. Look at me.” Lack of proper room-sweeping eye contact means that you’re either afraid of the audience or being dishonest—and neither perception is very good for your presentation.

  4. Hanging onto the lectern too much. Many business leaders often abuse this habit. Speech experts say that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal. Body language is a big communicator, and if you stay behind the podium, clutching it like a long-lost brother, you’re communicating that you’re insecure. Many speakers make it a point to avoid the lectern as often as possible to avoid looking as though they are hiding behind it. Rubbing, tapping, or gripping the lectern sends the wrong message. It’s okay to stand behind it, but rest a hand—one hand—lightly on the side of the lectern, and keep the other free to make gestures.

It’s wise to take a look at video-hosting sites, such as YouTube, and watch the speaking techniques of various corporate leaders. Notice their style and their strengths. Note, also, their weak points. As you practice learning better speaking habits, here’s a valuable exercise for you to do: study yourself in a mirror as you make your verbal delivery. Ask yourself: Based on what I am seeing in this presentation, would I leave the speech with a favorable or unfavorable image of the speaker and his business?

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