Learning from the best is always a good idea, especially when it means learning from their mistakes. Even professionals sometimes make these four common mistakes—but they all can be easily overcome.
Problem: Using the confidence monitors as a TelePrompter
Most conferences use something called a confidence monitor. A confidence monitor is placed downstage (close to the audience) and is usually used to display the current slide and sometimes the next slide. It’s a great tool to help you make sure that you’re speaking about what is currently on the screen. Another advantage of using a monitor is that you don’t have to turn around to look at the screen and lose eye contact with your audience.
Sounds good doesn’t it? It is, UNLESS you use it improperly. I’ve seen too many speakers read off the monitor on the floor, using it as if it were a teleprompter. The problem with this is that it hurts the speaker’s credibility in three ways:
1. Reading from the screen causes the speaker to lose eye contact with their audience.
2. Reading also tends to make the speakers voice go flat.
3. Reading content may look like the speaker doesn’t have a good grasp of their subject matter.
Solution: Get a real Teleprompter. TelePrompters work by keeping your eye level with the audience. It does take training to get good at it, but it is the right tool for the job.
If you know your content very well, the other solution is to cover the monitors. Too often monitors become a distraction, forcing the speaker to look at them even when they know their content inside and out.
Problem: Saying “this is a true story”
Recently, I heard a very dynamic speaker share some amazing stories. The audience was rapt. Even though these were great stories, there was a problem in how they were told. Every time he said “This is a true story” before sharing the story, he took us out of the moment. It even led us to question other stories that he told, “if this one was true, what about the others?”
Solution: Just tell your story. No need to say, “this is a true story”, or even, “I want to tell you a story.” We just want to hear the story.
Problem: Memorizing your speech
As a former actor I had to memorize long scripts. As an actor, memorization is crucial. Ironically, when you are a speaker, memorization can actually hurt you. I was watching a world-class speaker who had a limited time to present. He was an expert, but because he had to keep to a time limit, he decided to memorize his script. All went well until he forgot one word out of his memorized speech. This threw him off and he had to start over at the beginning. This happened a number of times during his short speech.
Solution: Just memorize concepts or key words and use them to speak extemporaneously. This will allow you to be more in the moment and appear more confident to your audience.
Problem: Going over your allotted time
When making a presentation, nothing is more disrespectful than going over your allotted time. Unfortunately, I’ve had to shorten my speech because the person before me couldn’t keep within their allotted time. Even when you are in a groove and your audience loves what you are saying, you need to respect the audiences’ time and be mindful of the next speakers allotted time. This is one of those situations where you‘ll need to be able to shorten you presentation. Sometimes, you may even find yourself in a situation where you’ll need to lengthen the time.
Solution: Once you know how to shorten or lengthen the time of your speech, keeping to your time is easy.
The first thing you’ll need to do is say your presentation out loud and time it. This will give you a baseline to work from. Timing can be a bit tricky because when you are presenting live you may be slower or faster than you are just reading it out loud.
Make sure you have determined a few places where you can cut or add content. Think about what is and isn’t essential, and where you can add color commentary if you need to fill more time.
Simply avoiding these top four mistakes will improve your next presentation. Tell me about any other issues you’ve observed or experienced.