Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

Sabotaging Yourself as a Speaker

Recently, I had the honor to be an audience member instead of a presenter. By watching instead of doing, I got the opportunity to re-assess my beliefs about what makes speakers effective. Here’s what I noticed:

5 Ways Speakers Sabotage Themselves

Mechanistic Movement

I’ll be honest here. I’ve only noticed a case of “robot-arms” this extreme a few times in the 20 years of my professional career. Every time one speaker said a certain word, he self-consciously drew a shape in the air with his hands. I counted five of these word-and-gesture-pairings. The effect was of an overly rehearsed, stilted high school actor.

Tornado Talking

Several presenters’ speed-talking, punctuated with very few pauses, led to audience exhaustion. Women presenters were the biggest offenders.

Big Chest in a Tight Blouse (I couldn’t think of how to use alliteration here)

The audience could see the lines of one presenter’s underclothes, and even what lie beneath them. Additionally, this speaker dressed more casually than most of her audience. (Do remember the rule: “Dress like your audience, but one step better.” )

Boring Bearing

Wearing sparkly clothes didn’t make up for one speaker’s inward-turned shoulders and powerless posture. (To learn about the Power Posture watch this great video:

Egregious Embellishment

Several presenters used lots and lots of very, very, absolutely, incredible, awesome, unbelievable, excellent, top-of-the-line adjectives. It was as if these speakers didn’t believe the truth of their messages, so tried to pump them up to make us believe. The opposite occurred.

3 Ways Speakers Increase Their Credibility

I’m probably the audience member from hell because of my merciless observations. However, I wouldn’t want to imply that I didn’t see anything that worked. Here are three behaviors that added to the authority and credibility of several speakers.

Purposeful Perambulation

The (female) speaker moved toward the audience, then stopped when delivering important messages. She refrained from:

  • Pacing
  • Walking backward
  • Shifting her weight from side to side
  • Talking while walking
  • Standing like a cheerleader: (weight on one hip).

She always included the entire audience with her body position, not just with her eye contact. As a result, her words were compelling.

Enthusiasm Embodied

The best presenters appeared to be enjoying themselves. They displayed passion about their subjects. Their voices were both deliberate and naturally excited. They gestured authentically to emphasize their messages. (For the best article I’ve found on exuding enthusiasm as a speaker, see:

Audience Advocacy

This term, coined by Jerry Weissman, simply means that the speaker continually let us know how his information would benefit us. Sprinkled throughout his presentation, he asked questions like:

“Now, why is this important?”

“Why should YOU care?” and

“Why am I telling you this?”—and proceed to answer in ways that made it clear how his information was in OUR (the audience’s) best interest.

Potent Presenting

When you lose the first five behaviors listed above, you’ll stop asking yourself, “Now, why didn’t that work like I thought it would?” By integrating the last three points, your public speaking becomes more compelling, dynamic and powerful. Enjoy!

Want more tips to improve your speaking self? Learn about Guila Muir’s Presentation Skills Workshop.

Guila Muir is a premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you into a great presenter:


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