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Top 5 Public Speaking Mistakes You’re Making and How To Fix Them

Public speaking is far from easy, and it is one of those activities in life that is guaranteed to make a lot of people nervous.

However, some of the nerves around public speaking arise because individuals approach it the wrong way. Thankfully for those afflicted, world-renowned TedX speaker and public speaking coach Jose Ucar is on hand to help fix those errors.

Straying From Your Purpose

If you seem unsure of yourself and what you are trying to say when you are on stage, the audience will sense it.

“Our purpose is what drives us and from it comes our energy and passion, which creates an almost instant connection with any audience,” Jose explains. “One of the first things I always invite my clients to answer is the following question: What makes your heart sing?”

“Once you are clear about that, it’s very important that you connect it with your topic. The highest level of purpose is when it transcends yourself to provide a greater service to others. Always think about the audience first, they are the reason you are a speaker.”

Jose recommends that all speakers focus on three things to create an instant emotional connection with the audience:

  • Remain highly passionate.
  • Be determined and on the ball.
  • Believe in yourself and show it by behaving and sounding like you do.

Thinking Too Much

Too much time in your own head will make you crazy and keep you away from delivering the best version of yourself to an audience willing to benefit from you’ve got to say.

If you find yourself struggling with your inner voice, Jose prescribes two remedies:

  • “Make fun of it. Mock that inner voice. For me works to give it a Mickey Mouse voice which takes all its power away while putting a smile on my face. What more could I ask for? Start having more fun with your inner talk.”
  • Focus on your audience. Get to know them better by asking them about themselves or by taking some time before your speech to ask the event organiser or host about who they are, what knowledge they have of your topic and what they would like to take away from the presentation.

Distracting Body Language

“When first presenting, people often wonder what to do with their hands because they can sometimes have a life of their own and can be distracting for the audience,” Jose explains. “Do we put them in our pockets, hold them by our sides or hide them behind our backs?”

“The answer is none of the above. The most critical time of a speech or presentation is the opening. This is when you either win or lose your audience’s attention. Therefore, engaging with the correct verbal and non-verbal communication is essential. And it is also important to make sure there are no discrepancies between what you convey verbally and non-verbally.”

Jose has a few suggestions for non-verbal techniques that will help you get off to a good start with your body language:

  • Stand still
  • Position yourself at the front of the room (a location of authority)
  • Point your toes forward
  • Spread your weight to both feet
  • Provide brief oral directions
  • Turn your palms up if you wish to be perceived as approachable
  • Turn your palms downs if you want to inspire credibility

Believing You Know What They Think

This is a dangerous starting point for a speech. It will encourage you to make unhelpful assumptions about your audience and it might make you afraid of saying certain things to them because you are worried they will reject you.

“You don’t know what the audience is going to say because you don’t have a crystal ball,” Jose explains. “If you do, by all means, please share it with me. We will make a fortune predicting the future.”

To counter the tendency of a speaker to make assumptions about their audience, Jose has found a way to frame negative-sounding ‘what if’ questions in a positive way:

  • What if people disagree with what I’m saying? becomes What if they agree?
  • What if they don’t care? becomes What if they care and give me a round of applause?
  • What if they judge me? becomes What if they judge me positively?
  • What if they don’t like me or my presentation? becomes What if they like me and my presentation?

Not Enough Storytelling

“Imagine this,” Jose suggests. “You walk onto the stage, nervous, your hands sweaty and your legs shaking, with the spotlight on your face as you begin to speak.”

“As your presentation evolves, something very strange takes place. The initially serious and quiet audience begins to open up, to laugh and interact with you.”

When this happens, it shows you are connecting with your audience. “Rich, neurologically-encoded patterns of information from your mind are somehow being copied across to the audience’s mind, impacting their view of the world and most likely their behaviour,” Jose explains. “This is human-to-human communication being amplified by the ancient art of public speaking, which is wired deeply into our brains.”

Archaeological findings suggest it traces back to the discovery of fire, and the age-old custom of gatherings around the fire to share stories, hopes and dreams.

Jose says, “Studies reveal the human brain has a strong tendency to lose focus, engages in up to 2,000 daydreams a day and spends up to half its waking time wandering. How then do you build a strong connection with your audience? The answer is stories, stories, stories…”

If you would like to find out how good your speaking skills are, take Jose’s free Speaking Score Quiz.

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