7 Deadly Sins of Public Speaking

It takes a lot of preparation to craft the kind of speech or presentation that is going to grab your listener’s attention. Once the speech is crafted, you need to spend a lot of time practising, so as to make sure you keep their attention.

Listeners don’t give their attention lightly and it doesn’t take much for it to wander. Here are seven bad speaking habits that will guarantee your listeners will be focusing on other things, instead of what you’re presenting.

  1. Rambling – if you don’t know where you’re going, the audience is not going to follow. If you do not have anything to say, sit down! No one has ever complained about a speech that ended early.
  2. Speaking in a monotone – not only are you at risk of losing their attention, you might even put them to sleep. Speaking in a monotonous voice is a real communication killer. When you don’t vary the pitch of your voice, it is difficult for the listener to maintain any interest in what you’re saying.
  3. Appearing to have limited topic knowledge – people come to listen because they expect you know what you’re talking about. You need to know your topic backwards and forwards. Research your topic thoroughly while preparing your speech.
  4. Poor eye contact – lack of eye contact creates a barrier between you and the audience. Make a connection to the listener; they want to know you’re speaking to them.
  5. Pacing, wandering or fidgeting – often a sign of nerves, it can be distracting to the audience. You may not eliminate the nerves, but preparation and practice can reduce the appearance of nerves.
  6. Lack of preparation – if you haven’t made the effort to prepare, why should the audience make the effort to listen?
  7. Poor storytelling skills – nothing communicates concepts better than stories. If you want to hold on to the listener’s attention, learn to tell stories well.

How to Write a Speech to Inform

If you’ve ever told your spouse about your day at work, or explained how to make an omelet, you already have experience giving an informative speech. An informative speech can be used to tell people about something you’re interested in or to explain how to do something. If that sounds easy, it’s because it is. Just choose your topic and make sure you know what you’re talking about.

  1. Choose a topic. You may have been given your subject. Alternatively, you should choose a topic you’re interested in, to give the best coverage of the subject. It may be obvious, but informative speeches inform. Don’t select a topic that requires you to give your opinion: that’s a persuasive speech.
  2. Narrow down your topic. Don’t try and cover every aspect of a subject. Pick a subject niche will allow you to thoroughly cover your topic in the time allotted.
  3. Develop your thesis. For example, “I am going to explain how to take apart a carburetor,” or “In this speech I’ll explain how to claim your pet as a tax deduction” could be good theses.
  4. Research your subject. If there’s one key to writing an informative speech it’s: know your topic. If you’re writing about something you know well you may not need much research. Otherwise, learn as much as possible about your subject. Take notes of crucial information as you go along.
  5. Consider your audience. In general, unless you know otherwise, assume your audience knows little about your topic. You may need to give background information and be careful about what jargon you use to explain your subject. However, if speech on carburetors is given to a group of auto mechanics, you can skip the background information.
  6. Outline your speech. List the information you wish to cover. Arrange it in a logical order. Decide what type of order best suits the subject: step-by-step, chronological, etc.
  7. Write the introduction. Your first words should grab the audience’s attention, with an anecdote or citation relevant to your topic. Then proceed to your thesis statement. If it’s a long or complicated speech, provide your audience with an overview of where you are going..
  8. Expand your outline to create the body of the speech. Include all the key points from your outline.
  9. Write your conclusion. A conclusion should summarize the main points of the speech. Your ending should refer back to the introduction to make the presentation cohesive.

Some guidelines to keep in mind when writing the informative speech:

  • Grab their attention – Give the audience a good reason to listen to you.
  • Make sure the audience understands – This refers back to point five above. Observe the audience as you speak. Do they look like they are following or are their eyes glazed over? It may be useful to insert breaks to ask if there are any questions.
  • Cover the basics – Who, when, what, why, where, how.
  • Emphasize the main ideas – Use basic speech-writing principles and use strong transitions between key points.
  • Repeat the main ideas – People need to hear something three times before they remember. State the main ideas in three different ways.
  • Be passionate about your topic – It’s easier to get people interested and informed by your topic, if you’re excited about what you have to say.