The quickest way to fail in public speaking is to try to present yourself as an expert in a subject you have not Earned the Right to Speak about.
As a professional speaker and facilitator I have sat through a lot of corporate events in the past 30 years and had the misfortune to experience some dire presentations, so bad so bad that the audience switched off or worse, got up and left during the presentation. The cause of these train wrecks was usually either where the presenter used someone else’s presentation slides or created their own slides but clearly was not an expert in the subject matter.
Unfortunately many companies insist on staff using a set of slides prepared by a marketing or publicity department. Often junior members of staff have to stand in for their boss and deliver their presentation. Or the worst habit is presenters passing their PowerPoint slides around the office. All three types of presentation result in people using slides as a substitute for understanding the content. If you are using someone else’s slides, you still have to put in the effort to understand the material sufficiently well that you could make the presentation without the slides.
I used to chair and manage a series of national road shows which involved a lot of guest speakers from sponsoring insurance and technology companies . Often the sponsors liked to make sure that their local representatives had a high profile at the local events and they were assigned to deliver the company presentation. But that was where the problem started.
Because they didn’t have to bother preparing the slide presentation, often the speakers would not bother to even look though the slides before the event. Where they did look though it was usually a day or so before the event – or on the night before in their hotel room and often what they did was no more than look through the slides. That is not enough to know and understand the material. If you have to use a corporate presentation know it and the underlying content inside out
On the day I watched so many speakers stumble through presentations, reading from the slides and even looking blankly at the slide not even sure what to say.
Dale Carnegie used to claim that a speaker should know at lest 40 times more about a subject that they were going to present. The audience is there to listen to you because they believe that you have expertise in a subject that they can use in their business or job. They want to know that you have earned the right to speak.
If you don’t really know the subject – you should not speak about it. I spent a lot of my career in sales and marketing – like all professionals I am always seeking new ideas and I want to hear from people who have knowledge and experience they can share. All I want is one good idea to make it work my while listening to a speech – I can tell in a couple of minutes if the speaker is going to deliver that. These are the tell tale signs of a speaker who has not earned the right to speak.
- The speaker lacks confidence because they are unsure of themselves
- There is too much content on each slide because its really a script
- The speaker reads from the slide because they don’t know the material
- The speaker has to read the slide before speaking
- There are too many slides
- The speaker speaks at the screen instead of the audience
- The speech lacks any personal stories and anecdotes
- The speaker mumbles, umms and ahhs their way through the speech.
- The speech is monotone and dull
- At the end of the speech I could not tell you what the speech was about
If you want to avoid giving a deadly boring presentation then make sure that you are an expert in the subject. Make sure that you have lots of personal experience stories and anecdotes to share, make sure that you have a unique perspective and a few ideas that are your own. Most importantly tell me about the problems you have encountered and overcome –
Show me with your stories, your knowledge and your expertise that you have truly Earned the Right to Speak.