Are you still presenting the way you were taught at school?  Time to kick those habits and develop expert presentation skills.

My two boys aged 8 and 10 are learning public speaking at school. Fabulous! I thought – here is something I can help them with! So, trying not to resort to ‘Tiger Mom’ tactics I offered to listen to their speeches and help them with their preparation.

Well, any parent out there will know what happened next.

“MUM! We don’t do it THAT way!” “The teacher says we HAVE to do it THIS way.” And the final comment: “I don’t need to to be a professional speaker, Mum!!”

So at the risk of causing psychological scarring and acute embarrassment to my lads, here are five bad public speaking habits you picked up at school that you need to repair.  These presentation skills will seriously help you.

1. “Hello, my name is Samuel and today I’m going to talk to you about…”

In most cases the audience will either know you already or you have been introduced by someone else. Make the most of your speech opening and hit them with a 10 second grab.

2. “Umm I’ll just unfold my notes…”

Those of you who did debating at school remember writing your speech out in full in tiny hand written notes on palm cards. There was always one kid who dropped them on the way to the lectern and spent the first 60 seconds of his speech trying to get them back in order.

My recommendation is have a ‘prepared plan’. If you write your speech in full you tend to read it and it will sound flat and stilted. Instead write your notes in point form and print them out in size 16 font. You can now put them down on a table or on the lectern and walk away, knowing that they are highly visible and are there as a prompt if you need them. A simple speech planner will help with your structure.

3. “I’ve prepared some whiz bang slides!”

Flying text, animated clip art, sound effects and colours that burn a hole in your retina are fabulous in grade five. Just don’t do it in the corporate sector as you will be remembered for your delivery and not your message. (Take this as a warning for all youPREZI users too!)

4. “I’ll just stand here like a statue…”

I see many adults who still do this. Their speech delivery style is completely different from their natural communication style. When I point this out to them and ask them why, they respond with “Oh, I move my hands too much.” Really? Who told you that? “My high school teacher,” they reply.

Here’s an exercise for you: Sit on your hands and try to speak out loud about some thing you are really excited and passionate about. Pretty hard to do huh?

Movement is important. It helps us:

  • Think better
  • Be more expressive
  • Increases our vocal variety
  • Appear more engaging to our audience

So, free up your hands, step away from the lectern and MOVE!

5. “Thank you for listening… any questions?”

Courtesy and manners are to be encouraged, ensure they are used appropriately. As an adult, in most cases you have been asked to speak. Thanking the audience diminishes your message as it comes across as passive.

The primacy and recency theory shows us that people tend to remember what they hear and see first and last. So look for questions during your presentation as an opportunity to increase engagement. Then go back to your objectives and finish your presentation with a powerful call to action.

Adopt these presentation skills and you’ll do well.  And what are the bad presentation habits you were taught at school?

Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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