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Your presence: Are you making these public speaking mistakes?

Use this checklist to determine if you are making mistakes with your presence when you speak in public:


1. Are you using your bio as your opening (“but first, a little bit about me”)?

Inexperienced speakers sometimes bait and switch: They open by tempting the audience with the promise of a fascinating topic – but then they switch gears and return the focus to themselves: their bio, their credentials and their experience.

The fix: Decide which parts of your background are truly relevant to the particular speech you are delivering; weave only those parts into your speaker introduction, which is written for one reason: to set you up for success and get the audience positioned to listen.


2. Are you conveying no energy with either your voice or your body language?

Although speakers show up differently based on their personalities and style, every speaker must bring a certain level of energy to the stage. If you don’t convey energy, your audience will perceive you as unbelievable and not engaged. A lack of energy can flatline a great speech.

The fix: Recognize that it’s your job to transmit the energy you feel for your topic to people in the audience (who may be feeling less than energetic). So stretch, stand up straight and tall, focus, look ’em in the eye, know that you’re the right person to be on stage, believe what you’re about to say with your whole being, and then SAY IT with passion and conviction. (Bonus: This is one of those public speaking mistakes you can avoid by listening and learning from TED Talks speakers.)


3. Are you being too stoic?

Don’t take yourself or your role on stage too seriously. If you’re wound so tightly that you refuse to crack a smile, laugh as appropriate or inject a little humor here and there, the audience will notice (and your presentation will suffer).

The fix: Take advantage of any opportunities you have to do impromptu speaking, which will teach you how to respond better on the fly. Again, joining a local Toastmasters group is a great way to get routine practice in impromptu speaking.


4. Are you failing to portray confidence?

Even if you’re a little nervous and don’t feel as confident as you’d like to feel, you must exude confidence if you want to be viewed as a good public speaker.

The fix: Take to heart the tips you’ve read here: Look at your audience; enunciate; project your voice; convey energy; speak deliberately with intentional pauses; eliminate crutch phrases; and of course, rehearse!