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Worst Public Speaking Advice

Here’s a list of the worst advice I’ve heard on public speaking:

Just imagine the audience is in their underwear/naked. Who came up with this? And why would anyone be calmer by imaging their entire audience naked? This makes no sense, and in fact it’s distracting, taking you away from the present moment (your speech!), and puts in you the wrong headspace (over analyzing the audience!).

Imagine you’re talking to grade schoolers. Why? Are you actually speaking to 6th grade students? Because if you’re not, why would you image you are? It’s meant to get you to “dumb down” your message, to make it palatable for anyone to digest. I agree that you shouldn’t use too many academic lingo or business jargon when speaking, but we don’t need our information blended down to mashed bananas. Please.

Repeat someone’s name OVER and over again to show you’re listening. This is an antiquated sales technique that was pushed over into public speaking. It’s supposed to work when you’re asked a question and you respond, “Well, Maja, thanks so much for asking that great question! [another type of bad public speaking advice]. I’d love to get into this a bit Maja and show you another angle to the problem. Maja, do you think your company would …..Maja…..blah, blah, blah…..[they I know your name] Maja…..blah, blah, blah.”

See what I mean? It’s ingratiating, annoying and obvious. Use my name once, maybe again at the end of the conversation. But that’s it. You’re limited to a two-time use only.

Telling someone “thanks, that’s such a great question.” It’s patronizing and a transparent flattery tactic. You’re basically thanking someone for listening to you.

Telling people you’re “so nervous” or “it’s the 1st time I’ve spoken in public.” —Why confide to the audience that you’re nervous, that you didn’t prepare a speech or it’s your 1st time speaking in public?? Oh my goodness. Do NOT do this. Why would you automatically create doubt in people’s minds? I hate when speakers do this SO much. I hear this at every single wedding I attend, and I feel like telling the person to just get off the stage. If you didn’t care enough to prepare a speech, to respect the audience you’re speaking to, then you don’t deserve to have a microphone in front of you.

Just be spontaneous. Ad lib, tell a joke, go off script. Unless you’re a professional comedienne (i.e. you’re actually living off your comedic wages, not just someone whose “funny”), then do NOT tell a joke. Don’t try to ad lib. Honestly the great speakers practice, prepare & rehearse. They train, they drill, and they get honest feedback. They don’t just “wing it.”  Trying to be spontaneous is like reading without your contact lenses, you’re not quite sure where you’re going with the story. Emotions can get the best of you when speaking in public, you start going off script, you feel good about yourself, then you fumble your lines, the joke lands flat, no one is laughing, you feel anxious, you’re looking for a familiar face in the crowd and all you see is people checking their watches, fiddling with their iPhones. And before you know it, BOOM! You’ve lost them. You lost the momentum and you look unprepared, sloppy and unprofessional. Way to go.