The 22 Sins
of Public Speaking
Opening
#01
You don't have to tell them what you're going to tell them.
You've probably heard it before: "Tell them what you're going to tell them." That's not bad advice. But it's not always the case. It doesn't have to be that way. After all, every other speaker is doing it. If you're going to make your audience sit up and pay attention, wouldn't it be worth doing something that every other speaker isn't doing? Open with something that makes a connection, or something that entertains, or something that leaves you exposed. Be different. Be memorable. Often, it's the journey that's exciting. If you already know where you're going, you might not pay as much attention along the way.


#02 Use open hands with your palms up instead of finger-pointing.
Sometimes pointing the finger looks like a gun. It also feels accusatory even if you don't mean it to be. Instead, extend your hands with your palms up as if offering up alms. It's more gracious, more inclusive, and more giving.
#03 Use props
What can you show or demonstrate or depict with objects rather than words? Can you stimulate your audience visually as well as auditorily? Props aid recall: If you want to be remembered, you can be visually arresting (without dying your hair) by using props to drive your points home. Most speakers don't do this. That's just one of the reasons why you should.
#4 Use contrast and extremes to create excitement and keep attention.
Contrast can be emotional, physical, and structural. This basic technique is integral to every great play and film, and every great piece of music. Consider your performance like a roller-coaster ride. Can you take me to the edge of a cliff before artfully lowering me, with love and care, to a safe place? Can you make the highs higher and the lows lower?
#5 Stand & land
Let your punchlines, point lines, and purpose lines land. That means you don't move while you're delivering them. You remain physically rooted to the spot so that your body reinforces the gravity of your words.
#6 Don't say "I'm glad to be here."
Show them that you're glad to be there instead. Your audience should see it in your actions and hear it in your words. Besides, what's the alternative? That you're pissed off that you're there?
#7 Don't tell them you're going to tell a story.
Just tell the story.
#8 Never apologize for the amount of time you don't have.
The minute you apologize for what they're not getting, your audience will start to feel that they're missing out on something. They should feel that the amount of time you have is the perfect amount of time. You can blow their minds in just a few minutes. Look at all those great TED talks for inspiration.
#9 Remember that they don't know what you know.
It's the first time they've heard your info. Don't assume prior knowledge. It can only help your message if you're comprehensive and to the point.
#10 If you tell them you care about something, you also need to tell
them why.
It's not good enough to say, "I'm a strong proponent of women's rights." It may seem obvious but you've got to hook them in with your reasons. Your why is what makes your beliefs more powerful and your case stronger.
Stage Movement
#11 Understand stage blocking.
You need to remain physically open so everyone in the room can see you at all times. That means you don't hide or turn to face anybody other than your audience...unless for dramatic effect.
#12 Deliver big moments center stage (usually).
Centering yourself physically on the stage is the same as bolding and centering a headline in a newspaper. It says: "This is important — pay attention." When you designate center stage as the pivotal place for your performance, you can more effectively use the rest of the stage to support your main message. There are always exceptions to this concept, so be sure your blocking works before the big day.
#13 That said, don't head straight for center stage.
When getting onstage for the first time, avoid making a beeline directly to the center before starting your speech. It looks stiff and clunky.
#14 Learn how to rehearse.
Rehearsal is the key to a successful performance. It's also the most effective method for reducing anxiety and calming pre-performance anxiety. If you know what you're going to do because you're well rehearsed, you'll feel more prepared and, thus, less anxious. It's not just repetition, but training. If you have to stop a rehearsal, start back up at the exact same emotional, physical, and energetic state. Otherwise, you'll lose the through-line and arc of the speech.
#15 Voice & speech training are not something you master in an hour.
It takes some time. Actors study voice and speech daily for three years at the top MFA programs, and still learning. Voice and speech training can make you sound more substantial so people will pay attention to you. It can also help you manage your nerves.
#16 Get everything in before the audience claps.
Then, get off the stage quickly. Don't let them see you doing housekeeping or making routine announcements. It breaks the theatrical experience.
#17 Get right to it.
Most speakers waste time on too much exposition and preparation and the audience starts thinking, Let's go already. Instead, hit the accelerator hard and launch straight on. Let them know what they're in for by what they experience from you in the first thirty seconds.
#18 Simplify.
You have no time for self-indulgence. You must be clinical and surgical with your material and your message. Don't use overly obfuscating verbiage when you can say things simply. See what we did there? We get attached to bits that really don't further the story or resonate with the audience, perhaps because they're funny or easy for us or have a special meaning to us. But it's not about us. It's never about us. It's always about them.
#19 You don't need to slow down.
Most speech teachers tell you to slow down. Sometimes that makes sense. But if you're worried about speaking too quickly, you're focused on the wrong thing. Instead of slowing down, focus on pausing. Speakers who speak too slowly have a soporific effect. Sometimes, we speak quickly. But we pause at the right places. That creates rhythm. Sometimes, we slow down when it serves the speech to slow down. Audiences can easily absorb the important points if you give them pause time.
#20 Never turn your back to the audience.
Unless it's intentional to make a point or convey an emotion, of course.. When you need to move upstage (that's toward the back of the stage, away from the audience), walk backwards if possible. Try not to turn your back on them.



#21 Never raise your voice at your audience.
This shouldn't need saying, but we sometimes we get so fired up about what we believe in, that we start shouting at the audience. Be aware of how you're coming across. Additionally, if you need to get everybody's attention after a coffee break, for instance, simply raise your hand and stand silently. People will get it and follow. If you yell, raise your voice at an audience to come back to their seats, you'll lower your status and potentially create some animosity with the audience members.
#22 Have fun.
Often, a speaker will book a speech and then worry about it so much that they don't actually work on it. Then, they wind up frustrated that they are doing it. That's not a particularly powerful place to be when performing. The more fun you have, the more fun the audience will have. If you enjoy giving the speech, they will be much more relaxed. You can make mistakes, lose your place, and even trip all over yourself, and still steal the show.