Top 10 Public Speaking Mistakes to Avoid – How to Fix Them

How to avoid public speaking mistakes. Public speaking is a powerful tool to grow your career or your business. You could be speaking in front of a small team or a large audience. In every case, giving a great presentation can have a lasting impact.

The good news is: public speaking is a skill that anyone can learn. With polished public speaking skills you are on your way to a more successful future.

We’ve been supporting executives to build their public speaking skills for 15+ years. Here, our experts share their advice on the most common public speaking mistakes and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: Not preparing enough when speaking in public

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when giving a presentation is not preparing enough. A well-prepared speaker will have a clear outline of what they want to say and how to say it. This includes having a clear understanding of your audience, their interests and concerns, and the key messages you want to convey.

How to Avoid It:

To avoid this mistake, start by setting clear goals for your presentation. Identify the key messages you want to get across and the outcomes you want to achieve. Then, research your audience and tailor your presentation to their interests and concerns. Finally, practice your presentation several times, making sure you stay within time and that your delivery is clear and engaging.

Mistake #2: Reading from Notes or Slides

Other common public speaking mistakes include is reading directly from notes or slides. This will make you sound robotic and uninspired. It will also make it difficult to connect with your audience and build rapport.

How to Avoid It:

To avoid this mistake, memorise your key points and only use your notes or slides as a guide. Even better, never even look at your slides.  Let any visual aids be for the audience’s benefit, not yours. Practice your presentation enough times that you feel comfortable enough to speak without relying heavily on your notes. This will help you connect with your audience and make your presentation feel more natural.

Public Speaking Mistake #3: Focusing Too Much on Yourself

It’s easy to get caught up in your own nerves and concerns when giving a presentation. However, if you focus too much on yourself, you risk losing your audience’s attention and interest.

How to Avoid It:

To avoid these public speaking mistakes, shift your focus away from yourself and onto your audience. Talk about the value you are providing to them and the information that will help them succeed. Remember, the goal of your presentation is to provide value to your audience, not to showcase your own skills.

Public Speaking Mistakes #4: Not Engaging Your Audience

One of the most common mistakes you can make when giving a presentation is failing to engage your audience. If your audience is disengaged, they are less likely to remember the information you present and less likely to take action on it.

How to Avoid It:

To avoid these public speaking mistakes, make sure your presentation is interactive and engaging. For example, you could ask your audience questions, encourage discussion, and use examples to make your points more relatable. Use Power Language throughout.  By engaging your audience, you’ll keep them interested and motivated to take action.

Mistake #5: Lack of Eye Contact

When giving a presentation, it’s important to make eye contact with your audience. This helps build trust and connection, and shows that you are confident and engaged in what you are saying.

How to Avoid It:

To avoid this mistake, practice making eye contact with your audience during your presentation. Aim to look at each person in the audience for a few seconds, making sure to include people at the back and sides of the room. This will help you build rapport and connect with your audience. And spend time with each group.  A passing glance is not enough.

Public Speaking Mistakes #6: Speaking Too Quickly

Speaking too quickly is a trap many people, especially when nervous, fall into. This can make it difficult for your audience to follow your presentation, and can make you appear nervous or unprepared.

How to Avoid It:

To avoid this mistake, don’t just speak slower.  Instead, speak at your usual pace, but add a pause every 6-10 words.  Use shorter sentences.  And put more energy into your delivery.  With this you will be much more impressive when you present.

Mistake #7 Ignoring your audience

Other common public speaking mistakes include ignoring the needs and interests of the audience. If you’re not tailoring your presentation to the audience’s expectations, you risk losing their attention and failing to make a connection.

How to Avoid It:

Take time to understand your audience’s needs and interests before you start preparing your presentation.  Tailor your presentation to meet those needs by talking about the most relevant and important information. Use examples and stories that your audience can relate to and engage with. Like this you will connect with your audience.

Mistake # 8: Using jargon and technical language

While it may be tempting to use technical language and jargon to sound more knowledgeable and credible, this will backfire and alienate your audience. The most senior executives use the simplest language. Avoid this obvious public speaking mistake.

How to avoid it:

Use clear and concise language that is easy to understand.  Avoid using technical terms and jargon unless you are absolutely sure that your audience understands them.  Use analogies and metaphors to help explain complex ideas in a more accessible way.

Mistake # 9: Focusing Too Much on Slides

It’s easy to get caught up in your slides and forget about your audience. Many speakers spend too much time working on their slides and even reading their slides, rather than connecting with their audience. This can lead to a disengaged audience and a lacklustre presentation.

How to Avoid It:

Remember, your slides are a tool, not the main event. Use your slides to support your message, rather than relying on them to carry your presentation. Keep your slides simple and uncluttered, with only a few key points on each slide. 

Instead of focusing on your slides, focus on your audience. Make eye contact, use body language to emphasize your message, and try to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. By putting your audience first, you’ll create a more engaging and memorable presentation. Imagine you are giving an illustrated talk, rather then talking through slides.

Mistake #10: Not Rehearsing Enough

One of the most common public speaking mistakes in public speaking is not rehearsing enough. Rehearsing your presentation is critical to ensuring that you deliver it smoothly and confidently.

How to avoid it:

Practice, practice, practice: Rehearse your presentation multiple times to ensure that you are comfortable with the content and delivery.  Use video: Record yourself practising your presentation and watch the footage to identify areas for improvement. 

Time yourself: Make sure that your presentation fits within the allotted time frame. Practice adjusting your pace to stay on track.  Get feedback: Ask someone to listen to your presentation and provide constructive feedback on your content and delivery. Like this you can avoid public speaking mistakes.

What Next to Avoid Public Speaking Mistakes

The best way to avoid weaknesses in public speaking is through practise and with feedback.  We can help accelerate this process with intensive coaching.  With just a few hours of support we can transform you so that you learn how to speak like a professional.  Call our client services director for a chat about how we can help you.

Contact us for a free consultation on your training needs

About Benjamin Ball Associates

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.

Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.

We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.

Contact us for a free consultation on your training needs

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

Let's talk about your presentation training needs

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

+44 20 7018 0922

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