Entrepreneurs: Are You Making These 5 Deadly Public Speaking Mistakes?

January 8, 2015

Entrepreneurs: Are You Making These 5 Public Speaking Mistakes

Did you see Transformers director Michael Bay struggle to speak at a Samsung press conference — before abruptly walking off the stage?

We’ll wing it right now. Uh, I try to take people on an emotional ride. And, um, excuse me — I’m sorry.”

Did you hear these incoherent ramblings from Miss South Carolina, at a Teen USA pageant?

“Some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps, and uh, I believe that our education, like, such as in South Africa and… uh, the Iraq, everywhere, like, such as…”

It’s pretty ugly.

Many entrepreneurs make the same public speaking mistakes

You never know when you’ll be given the chance to pitch your business, and win over your next client, employee, or investor.

Now you’re probably thinking about how to land your next client, perhaps following expert sales advice from Patti Pokorchak. Maybe you need to build a team of employees and trusted advisors. And that usually means you need to speak to groups of people in person, over the phone, or with online video.

But if you make any of the deadly speaking mistakes below, it could easily crush your entrepreneurial hopes and dreams before they’ve even had the chance to lift off the ground.

Why these public speaking mistakes hurt your chances of success

Sloppy speaking can damage your personal brand, confuse your prospective clients, employees, and investors, and cause them to pass you by.

If you had sub-zero credibility, would it be hard to get your next client? How about your next employee? Your next investor?

But it doesn’t have to be this way if you know how to avoid the landmines.

What are the 5 deadly public speaking mistakes?

Not Being Present

If you’re not paying full attention to what’s going on around you, you won’t really understand your audience, or listen carefully to the questions they ask you. When you’re stuck inside your own head, you miss out on what your audience wants to hear and what they might be thinking. And you won’t fool a discerning audience if you’re just going through the motions or trying to be someone you’re not.

Not Staying Focused

It can be hard for other people to understand you if you don’t have a purpose and message in mind before you to speak. People won’t continue to pay attention if what you say doesn’t seem to add up.

Not Practising

When you don’t rehearse, you miss the chance to iron out the wrinkles in your content, structure, and delivery before going live. If you don’t prepare in advance, you may also run into more unexpected technical issues and delays. And you could be considered unprofessional for going over your time limit, unless you practise speaking under time constraints.

Not Touching Heads, Hearts, and Hands

Not everyone loves numbers, so if you just present facts and figures, you run the risk of being boring. But if you try to be purely motivational, some audiences will dismiss your talk as being “too fluffy.”

According to Mark Brown, a World Champion of Public Speaking, great orators touch your head and make you think, touch your heart and make you feel, and touch your hands and make you act. What could you accomplish if you added facts to lend credibility, used storytelling to mythologize your message, and inspired your audience to act right away?

Not Knowing When to Stop

According to brain scientists, primacy and recency effects lead most people to only remember the first thing and the last thing you say. Ultimately, you miss the most important opportunities to connect with your audience if you don’t start and end with purpose.

Final thoughts

As you may know, contestants in the Miss America pageant have 20 seconds to respond to a question. This question from the 2014 pageant will surprise you:

“The savagery of the ISIS threat to our security was demonstrated by the videos of two journalists and an aid worker being beheaded. What should our country’s response be?”

If you were given 20 seconds to solve ISIS, what would you say? You won’t believe this contestant’s response:

“This is an absolute outrage and something should definitely be done. But I don’t think that America needs to be the only one to do it. I really think it’s important for the rest of the world, the UN, to come together and decide what’s the best thing, united, to really come together as a bigger, more impactful source to end this horrid, horrid thing that’s happening.”

You never know when you’ll be given the chance to pitch your business, and win over your next client, employee, or investor.

The good news is that anyone can learn how to avoid the 5 deadly public speaking mistakes, and effectively communicate their ideas. And ideas can change the world.

Now it’s your turn.


Ron Tsang

Ron Tsang helps entrepreneurs give compelling presentations to clients, employees, and investors. He has empowered his clients to understand and master critical areas of public speaking since 2004. Ron has an MBA from the University of Toronto and an HBA from the University of Waterloo. Find him on Level Up Workshops and folllow @rhtsang.