Are You Making a Good Impression When You Speak?
Making a good impression when you speak is vital if you want to be memorable for the right reasons.
The following anecdote is a true story. Names and details have been left out to protect those involved.
Last week I heard and saw something professionally upsetting.
Here is the short version:
A speaker took the stage at a small event.
Familiar with her content, I went to hear her speak.
As soon as she started talking, she fumbled over every word. You know, uncontrollable “ums” and “ahs”, rambling without making a point, didn’t appear practiced, spent the first ten minutes thanking people, clunked her heels on the wooden floor.
She even started her talk saying, “I love speaking to groups!”
I cringed, thinking, this could be SO MUCH BETTER. And what a disservice she’s doing to her message!
After her talk, I overheard a variety of comments:
I’m proud of her.
She could have used some speech coaching.
I could go either way.
She was fine.
Not stellar, but not entirely horrific either.
Memorable for the Wrong Reasons
Here’s the kicker. Through the grapevine I heard that the event organizer “felt embarrassed by the speaker and how she presented herself on stage.”
My heart sank. As a speaker and facilitator of workshops and live events, there is, in my opinion, nothing worse than being remembered for the wrong reasons.
And sure, this is second hand information and may not be entirely true. Yet, if people are talking negatively, that is what matters.
It’s up to the speaker to write the ending.
Are you Resistant, Reluctant, or Ready to Go?
Now, when it comes to “public speaking” – everything from networking, to formal presentations, to hosting an event, to hosting or appearing on a podcast, to pitching your services – the people I talk to typically fall into three buckets:
- Resistant. No way, no how are they going to “put themselves out there”.
- Reluctant. They don’t want to do it, but in order to grow their business they know they have to, so they do, reluctantly.
- Ready to go. These folks claim to love speaking! And have no fear!
(Side note: I rotate through all three buckets regularly.)
Guess which one often has the greatest success?
I’ll give you a hint. It’s #2. Because having that little bit of reluctance often prompts these folks to get help from a coach, through speaking clubs, or by gathering groups of peers. They don’t necessarily want to speak, but when they do, they want to present their best self.
Confidence is Not Enough
As for those who love speaking and feel confident? Well, that’s a different part of the ego to be aware of. Because while you may think you’re great, your audience may not.
Confidence IS NOT ENOUGH. You have to know how to tell stories, engage and interact with your audience (side note: Q & A does not count!), and let your audience know, “Hey I see you, I hear you, I care about you.”
Otherwise you end up fumbling over every word, clunking your heels on the wood floor and embarrassing the event organizer. Not to mention wasting the time, money and energy of those who came to hear you speak.
And that’s no way to promote yourself or your message in a positive way.
Make a Good Impression When You Speak
I’ll keep saying it … The world needs you and your ideas. Give people a reason to listen. Stop winging it, or worse, letting your ego guide you. This is true whether you love speaking or hate it. Regardless, take time to plan, prepare and practice before a high stakes interaction to ensure that you are memorable for the right reasons.
Your turn to talk to me
- Have you ever seen a speaker fumble?
- Or been the fumbling speaker?
- Which one best describes you when it comes to public speaking – resistant, reluctant or ready to go?
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About the blog
Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.
Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.
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