7 public speaking mistakes that are draining your confidence | Panda Anku

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Two words often scare even the most confident entrepreneurs: public speaking. For some it comes naturally. But for others, it’s something they have to overcome. For everyone, public speaking is a skill that can be improved over time.

To become a more confident public speaker, there are a few common mistakes to avoid. From there it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone and practicing enough to find your rhythm.

Also see: 7 powerful public speaking tips from one of TED Talks most-watched speakers

1. To be scripted

While every public speaker wants a polished idea with a strong beginning, middle, and end to their presentation, an overly scripted or rehearsed speech loses the emotion needed to capture the audience’s attention. It’s best to create an organized flow of how you plan to present your material, to set the tone and pace, and limit any tendency to improvise, which can quickly get a presentation out of hand.

Start with an overview of the key points, add facts and statistics as needed, and then leave space where you can naturally bring emotion throughout the presentation. Having bullet points for reference allows one to stay in control of the narrative while keeping it compelling.

2. Relying on filler words

Any language teacher or consultant will criticize you if a filler word is used. This includes – um, well, how, you know – and other words that thoughtlessly connect minds. Adding these filler words in public speaking takes the edge off the message and shows nervousness or inexperience. A quick pause to let one thought sink in before moving on to the next isn’t always a bad thing. It allows you to set a steady pace for your speech instead of rushing through to the end.

A helpful tip for eliminating filler words from your speech is to pause each time one comes up. Record yourself practicing your presentation and marking how often you rely on filler words. On the next run, replace the fillers with a pause or consider making changes to that part of the speech. However, if a few fillers slip out here and there, avoid reacting or apologizing when speaking live. Just go with the flow.

3. Use of question bends

Confidence as a public speaker is demonstrated by saying rather than asking. You are in control of the narrative, so adding a question to a statement makes you sound uncertain. This can especially happen during pitches, when prices are being discussed or when there are less pleasant moments.

In a pitch, a safe way to approach pricing discussions is to say outright, “The price for my X services is X dollars.” As a statement and question, say this phrase out loud and watch the tone change. If you are not sure about the question or the information given, the recipients will doubt it too.

4. Swaying or standing too still

People have a hard time concentrating when they’re swaying nervously, a manner you’re probably using unconsciously to avoid standing too still. Movement during a speech isn’t automatically a disadvantage, but make sure it doesn’t interfere with the presentation itself. For example, hand gestures can emphasize points, and moving from one side of the room or stage to the other makes you look relaxed.

However, constantly pacing, playing with hair or clothing, and standing still is the type of body language that conveys a lack of confidence and ease, two things you don’t want when standing in front of others to speak.

5. Avoid eye contact

Eye contact is important in today’s age of video conferencing. Some presentations can be done virtually, so you need to grab the audience’s attention without being in the same room. But how do you get eye contact through a screen when multiple people are logged on at the same time? Look into the camera and scan the faces from time to time. Avoid looking directly at yourself and remove all distractions from the room before you begin. Once you break eye contact with your virtual audience, they will also tend to break away.

Also See: 5 Ways to Use Eye Contact in a Business Meeting to Get What You Want

6. Abuse of visual aids

Visual aids are a great way to bring your speech or presentation to life. Too often, however, people rely on visual aids to literally guide them through their speech. Avoid cluttering your slides with text and design elements. Choose a template slide to keep your presentation consistent, only highlighting bullet points or statistics to get your point across. Audiences will lose focus if there is too much distraction in your visuals.

7. Waste of time

Time your speech as you prepare. Whether it’s a meeting, a presentation on stage, or a virtual session, running over time is an avoidable mistake. Likewise, rushing through the speech and finishing well before the allotted time can lead people to think they received less value. As you go over time, what areas can you trim? If you’re late, consider whether to rush through your speech or go natural. There might also be parts where you can spice it up with supporting information or an anecdote.

Being a persuasive speaker does not automatically mean being an excellent speaker. It takes practice, commitment, and authenticity to wow audiences. As with any skill, the more time and effort you put into it, the more confident you’ll sound. Even if you’re a seasoned public speaker, it never hurts to revisit these common mistakes to ensure your speeches and presentations stay top-notch.

See also: 10 Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking


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