making mistakes for learningIf you are reading this post because the title appealed to you, then the advice I read from copyblogger.net about negative titles works. I often speak in public as it is one of my hobbies. As part of my personal growth and development as a speaker, I believe in joining associations and groups of people who are either better speakers or very passionate about public speaking. Last Monday I paid a visit to the Professional Speakers club in Anaheim and having expressed my interest in becoming a member a few months ago, I was offered a speaking spot for the evening.

I had very little preparation, but I accepted the challenge and decided to give a speech that I had given before, but I was to use 20 minutes instead of the 60 minutes I had used in the past to deliver that speech. I quickly sat down, thought about what to take out of the speech and what to leave in. The process was fun and the experience was priceless. I had a great time on stage and at the end of my presentation I had a round-robin evaluation from the club members in attendance. From that single speaking opportunity, here are three of the most valuable lessons I took away:

  • Don’t overload your speech with stories: My speech opened with a story and ended with a call to action. The problem was, I had too many stories for a 20 minutes speech and some of my stories could have been left out if I had spent a little more time expanding on the points the stories were illustrating. Someone in his feedback said I could have used only story and weaved it into my speech, let the story unfold and reveal all the points I was making. That’s a great idea I can’t wait to implement.
  • Don’t call on your audience to participate without warning them: At a point in my speech when I felt I was losing some of my audience members, I did something totally unplanned. I randomly picked audience members and asked them for their input on some of the points I was making. That is a good thing to do when working with a small audience and having had the opportunity before the speech to interact with each of them individually. But even if you know every member in the audience (which won’t happen often the more you grow), calling on people in surprise is not very recommended. Don’t get me wrong, you can ask for someone to volunteer an answer to your question, but randomly picking someone to give you an answer might not be well received.
  • Always acknowledge your audience: I opened my speech with a story and because some of the details of that opening story were not clear in my memory (no time to practice), I stumbled upon a few of its details that were relevant and would have made an impact. Thus, already distracted by those early mishaps, I got off track and forgot to acknowledge my audience. Always remember to acknowledge your audience. It could be with a short or long smile before you begin speaking, or with a simple greeting, or with an opening question. You are speaking to an audience and if you don’t take time to acknowledge them, they might decide not to acknowledge you and begin walking out on you, but that’s an extreme.

For a speech that I gave with not much preparation, I thought it went very well and the feedback I received was great. Speaking without or with little preparation is a challenge I welcome as stage time for me is priceless. Which one of the mistakes above have you made in the past? What are some of the things not to do on your list when speaking in public?