The Seven Deadly Public Speaking Sins And How To Avoid Them

By Suzen Fromstein, ATM
The Write Connections Inc., Concord, Ontario, Canada

The seven deadly religious sins may keep you out of heaven. The seven deadly public speaking sins will put your audience through hell! -- Michael Cloud

I am a professional speech writer and published author. During the last nine years I have facilitated workshops, delivered speeches and earned my Advanced Toastmaster and Experiential Education speaking credentials. I have also coached many professionals on how to successfully deliver an extraordinary speech.

By carefully analyzing my experience on both sides of the podium, I have learned how speakers triumph or fail. The first step to becoming a top-notch speaker is to be aware of the seven deadly speaking sins, then learn how to avoid them.

The first deadly public speaking sin -- failure to practice properly
Some speakers don't practice at all. Others don't practice enough -- since they know what they want to say, they believe their speech will be good enough. It is not very surprising to find their podium performances are lacklustre, boring and confusing.

There are three main reasons many speakers do not take the time to practice properly, if at all:

  • They don't have enough time.
  • The speech/group is not important.
  • They never learned how to practice properly.

If you can't afford to practice properly, you can't afford the consequences of performing poorly. If the speech does not warrant serious preparation time, don't deliver it.

Practice doesn't always guarantee success. Practicing the wrong thing is even worse because you could be reinforcing bad habits. How you practice has a direct affect on your delivery.

If failure to practice properly is a sin, where is the redemption? Here are some tips:

  • World-class speakers like Dale Carnegie have mirrored their way to speaking success. You can, too. Practice your speech three to seven times in front of a mirror. This provides immediate visual feedback on how you look. Are you making eye contact? Do your body language, poise, posture and gestures match your message? Mirror practice also helps you see what to change. Make the changes and then practice them three to seven times.
  • Tape record your practices and your performances. Replay the recordings. What did you like? What needs to be changed? How was your voice? Tempo? Speed? Volume? Emphasis? Solicit feedback, so that you can get the most out of your mirror practice sessions.
The second deadly public speaking sin -- absence of a well-defined theme
Some speeches have no unifying theme or try to cover too many topics and ideas. Others say nothing of value or try to say everything. None of these approaches is effective. The absence of a well-defined message suggests the speaker hasn't cared about the audience enough to think through the speech. Can you afford to have this happen to you?

If the absence of a well-defined theme is the sin, where is the redemption? The perfect theme is the perfect bumper sticker message. More tips:

  • Before writing your speech, determine the one message you want the audience to take home with them. Summarize that message in one sentence. This is your theme.
  • Write your theme sentence on the top of a piece of paper. Every point in your speech should contribute to, enhance, or illustrate this theme.

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