There are ways, many ways, to fail at public speaking (and we've all witnessed some cringe-worthy mistakes in action). But 5x TEDxTalk speaker and leadership expert Bobby Umar has some opinions on how to kicka$$ at public speaking, as well as the worst ways to ruin a presentation or talk, including:
#1: Read straight from your slides or script
“Never create a presentation full of words and read from it. Or write a script for a speech and then stand on stage, look down and read from it. That’s Public Speaking 101.
Instead, write an outline and reference it casually here and there. Have a good understanding of your key points, as well as cues to reference a point or personal anecdote under each subtopic. Most public speakers don’t get teleprompters, but that’s better actually—it forces you to look up and make eye contact with your audience, riff a little more, and really engage with them.”
#2: Use jargon
“Your audience won’t understand you if you use a bunch of industry acronyms or slang. And no, it doesn’t make you look cool to speak over people’s heads. That does no good. Instead, assume they know very little about your topic so you’re speaking at their level of learning.”
#3: Make a ton of excuses
“When you start out by saying things like, ‘Sorry, my presentation sucks,’ or ‘it’s disorganized,’ or ‘I’m running late,’ or ‘I’m not sure why they asked me to present,’ you lose the confidence that people have in you and what you’re about to say. Which leads to your audience losing focus and attention. If you’re not keeping your audience’s attention, then you haven’t given a successful presentation.”
#4: Go over time
“The organizers of the event allocated a specific amount of time for you on purpose. Be respectful of the schedule and time yourself before the main event. Air on the side of caution. If you’re given an hour time slot, get your speech down to 50 minutes.”
#5: Cram in too much content
“No, all those words and images on your presentation slides don’t make you look smarter. It makes you look disorganized and unfocused. Break your ideas up into smaller, bite-size messages over several slides instead. This makes it easier to digest for your audience.
If you’re giving a talk without a presentation, this applies as well: Don’t touch on too many points. Keep it simple, and stick to the main point. Which goes all the way back to the #1 step in "How to Kicka$$ at Public Speaking" tips: Focus on one main topic!”
So now you know what not to do. Now focus on kicking a$$ by reading Part I of this series here.