We’ve all been there: having to endure an excruciatingly bad speech or a talk that leaves us scratching our heads. You can see the pain in three-minute congratulatory speeches, politicians delivering words of welcome at events, and speakers at conferences.
Here are five big reasons that your speech will suck:
1. You treat your audience like they can’t read. There’s nothing worse than someone who gets up and uses powerpoint and then recites everything on the screen verbatim. Honestly, why bother. Just sit down and instead hand out a sheet so we can read it ourselves. Always use a powerpoint presentation as a complementary or reinforcing component to your talk, not the main component.
2. You totally forget about your audience. If you’re invited to offer a few words of thanks at an event, don’t forget to tailor your short speech to your audience. For example, if you’re speaking to crowd of birding enthusiasts at an event to mark a major wetland conservation project, don’t ignore birds and instead talk about tomatoes.
3. You speak in monotone and you’re not animated. This is a sure-fire way to cause brains to go to sleep in most people. Get your audience’s attention — and wake up the drifters — by varying your tone, volume and being animated. (P.S. You don’t have to jump around like Curious George, however, use your feet to move slightly laterally and forwards and backwards.)
4. You fail to have a great opening. How many times have you changed the channel on the television because the opening of a show or movie was uninteresting? We’ve all done this! Grab your audience’s attention. I’ve seen speakers incorporate a mask into their opening as a gimmick. Heck, I’ve even used a Barbie doll! (It was a journalism conference, and I was challenging reporters on their ideas about what is news!)
5. You don’t chuck the script. Staring down at a script and reading word for word is an audience killer. Great speakers don’t use scripts. If necessary they have notes for quick at-a-glance reminders about transitions in their speeches. A Powerpoint can offer the same use. You need to be looking at your audience. Besides, scripts are meant for reading. There’s a natural difference between talking to your audience and reading to your audience. Which one do you think is more engaging?