Connecting with the audience

8 things professional speakers do that really piss people off

And he wasn’t talking about fish…
  1. Talk endlessly and positively about themselves and their experiences-Because it looks vain and probably is a sign of vanity. Fix: tell stories where you’re the fool and someone else is the hero.
  2. Make the link for the audience when the point is obvious- People are generally more intelligent than clever people assume, and ‘ordinary’ people don’t like to be patronised. Fix: You don’t have to explain the message behind the anecdote. That’s the point of an anecdote. We get the lesson without the lesson. Ask yourself if the point is clear. If it is there’s no need to explain. If it isn’t, change the story.
  3. Start at an energy level too high or too low for the crowd- Too high to start and they’ll want to kill you; too low, and they’ll want to kill themselves. Fix: remember just above or just below is fine and once you’ve got that harmony you can take them anywhere.
  4. Use laser pointers- They always look crap and make it look like the speaker has palsy- Fix: Use a real pointer, a finger, highlight the point on the visual or(most simply) just tell them where to look- ‘as you’ll see in the top right-had corner in red…’
  5. Assume the mantle of the expert- Modesty is most becoming in a speaker. Even George Bernard Shaw realised ‘The more I find out, the less I know.’ Or was that 1970’s pop sensation Barry Biggs? Fix: Real experts don’t need to label themselves as such, so just show us your expertise in your talk and how you can help the audience, not in regaling us with the awards, degrees and famous friends…
  6. Forget to change the name of the previous client on the slides- Or referring to today’s client by yesterday’s name. Imagine that happened with your loved one? She (or he) would slap your face wouldn’t she? Fix: The cynical one is never to add the name of the client to the slides in the first place. The ethical one is to know to whom you’re speaking and make every speech personal. (If you can’t do that for the fee, then double the fee and take a day to prepare…)
  7. Assume that all the technology works- ‘Cause hi-tech is brilliant but seldom does. And you look brilliant if you can handle it without a miss-step. Fix: Remember that It’s your responsibility to make sure that the slides, videos, microphone, tweet feeds, polling software and all the other stuff is working, and have contingencies in place if it doesn’t. Because it’s you they’ll blame if it all goes wrong anyway.
  8. Make assumptions about the audience- ‘Cause it reminds them you know nothing about them. Fix: You may think you know what it’s like to be a vacuum cleaner salesman in Indonesia, or a call centre operative in Birmingham, UK; but you probably don’t. Make sure that any assumption are checked and tested before you meet the audience. See rule 6 for the budget.
Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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