Surprising mistakes most speakers don’t know they make

Many speakers have some ‘tricks up their sleeve’. Things that will help them be more memorable, or look more professional. Some of these tactics (because that is what they are) are well known. Taking the selfie with the audience. Getting interaction by asking questions, you name it. Yet some tactics might actually backfire.

Without the speaker realising what went wrong.

Sometimes in the effort of being memorable, entertaining or helpful, speakers make mistakes. Mistakes that they aren’t aware off. But mistakes that can have a devastating effect.

If you are a speaker, be aware of the following tactics and how they could backfire.

“Engaging” the audience, or are you scaring them?

It’s what every speaker wants: an engaged audience. They are focusing and connecting with you. Some speakers will go ‘all out’ trying to engage the audience. “Get them involved”.

A popular thing to do amongst speakers is letting the audience ‘take part’. This can vary. From asking people to physically take part to asking the audience questions. Even getting them on stage sometimes.

Just look at how this sales speaker gets the audience to sing a song:

Now, this looks like fun (for some). But there is something speakers often don’t realise. ‘Engagement’ doesn’t always mean it’s the audience, that has to do something.

Sometimes it’s the speaker who gets close to the audience. I saw Avinash Kaushik do a great job with this at SMXL Milan.

There is a big danger, though. For many people in the audience, it can be frighting when this happens. They might freeze. With as a result that in some cases, it stays awkwardly quiet when the audience is asked to join in…

One thing you have to know about people: most of us don’t like to stand out. With the known exceptions, people in a group tend to respond like the group does. We follow the group. If the group stays quiet, so do we.

This means that getting the audience involved might sometimes not be such a good idea. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. It does mean that you have to think about what it is that you are doing. “Read” the audience.

Know your audience before you speak. And when you do decide to get them involved: make it easy for them. Don’t ask open questions, asked closed ones. So they don’t have to step outside of their comfort zone.

Giving away your slides before you start

Most of the speakers in the Digital industry love SlideShare. I love it as well. It’s a great resource to have. And at the same time, it’s a great content marketing tool. Putting your slides on SlideShare will help you spread your message. It is also great for your branding. Plus, it helps your audience remember you.

So yes, do put your slides on SlideShare. Just don’t make the mistake of sharing it too soon.

Many speakers upload their presentations to SlideShare before they actually start talking. At the start of their talk, they then tell this to the audience. They also tell them not to bother taking notes or pictures. Because after all, the slides will be available afterwards anyway.

If you do this, you are doing something wrong you might not realise. And it has nothing to do with you, but all with your audience.

Everyone is the same when it comes to remembering things. We all need concentration or focus: we need to pay attention to remember things. It’s how our minds work. If we don’t pay attention, we won’t remember.

So what does this have to do with putting things on SlideShare you might ask? Let me explain this a bit more.

As soon as you are telling your audience they will get the slides, you give their brain the signal to relax. And to stop focusing on what you have to say.

They don’t have to take notes or pictures, so they sit back and relax and listen to your presentation. That sounds great but isn’t. Because when they do, they won’t remember as much from your presentation as you might hope they would. They can’t help that, it’s how the brain works. And you just told their brains it’s ok, not to remember your words.

And what happens when people remember less of your talk? They will be less inclined to follow up. They are less likely to remember you when the topic comes up. And they will share less to their peers about your presentation.

Don’t fall into this trap. Tell them about SlideShare after your talk, but not before. Keep the focus and attention on you. And share at the end of your talk.

A ‘bit’ of bragging

It’s human nature to want to show those you are going to talk to you exist. Proof that you are the ‘cool one’. So what do many speakers do? They turn to bragging. Showing off a little to gain some authority never killed anyone right?

Wrong…

Well, it’s wrong when you turn to the type of bragging I’ve seen many speakers do in the past few years. They brag about going out the night before with the other speakers. About drinking a lot and having a hangover. Or they brag about just finishing the slide deck last minute.

Somehow some speakers think it’s cool to act like you don’t care.

But what you are saying is you don’t care about your audience. You don’t care about them travelling to a city, sometimes 1,000s of miles away from home. You don’t care about them spending hundreds of dollars or pounds on the ticket for the conference. You are saying you don’t care about the conference. You only show you care about getting pissed with speaker friends. And hey, since you are there, why not do a speech.

Is that the message you want to send out? I don’t think it is. But when you are talking about these things, that’s exactly what you are doing.

Stop pretending like the audience and the conference doesn’t matter. It’s them you are there for in the first place. It’s great to hang out with friends, but that is the bonus. Not the talk you are there for in the first place.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear from you if there are other things you feel might hurt a presentation. Apart from the obvious ones (death to powerpoint) of course. Which ‘hidden mistakes’ do you know off?

Let me know here or on Twitter!

Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.