People often ask me what is the worst mistake you can make when public speaking. Now there are so many crimes committed in this arena that it is hard to isolate one in particular. When I pose this question to my presentation skills delegates, their suggestions are many and varied and usually along the lines of forgetting what you need to say next or overcomplicated slides. What they are concentrating on is what happens within the presentation itself.
However, one of the most popular gripes from audiences who haven’t enjoyed the presentation they attended is this…..
Calamity! May plague and pestilence strike the presenter who doesn’t keep to time. Do remember that however riveting your topic and however well you deliver it, most folk are shoe-horning you into their very busy day. They have somewhere else to be after your presentation, even if it is only the company canteen. Therefore, one of the hardest things for an audience to forgive is when the presentation time has finished – but the speaker clearly hasn’t.
Even though it was over ten years ago, I can still remember a networking event where the young speaker (a lawyer) was talking about the legal aspects of employing part-time staff. He had rather rashly handed out hard-copies of his slide set, so we all knew he had twelve slides to talk through. Most of the audience, including me, were parked in timed spaces in a nearby public car park. Imagine our despair, when at minute 37 of his promised 40 minute speech, he was only on slide three! Despite much sighing, shuffling of feet and ostentatious watch checking from his audience, he grimly ploughed on … well over his allotted time schedule.
It always reminds me of Dorothy Sarnoff’s wonderful quote, “Make sure you have stopped speaking before your audience has stopped listening”**
The great orators knew this; they kept their speeches short and pithy which made them all the more memorable. Way back from when Caesar was asking: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears,” through to Winston Churchill’s “Fight them on the Beaches” up to the more modern day “Yes We Can,” from Barack Obama, the skill has always been in tightening up your oratory, leaving only the essential message to resonate.
So, I shall leave you with a little food for thought for when you are preparing your next presentation or training session:
- Pythagoras’ Theorem – 24 words
- The Lord’s Prayer – 66 words
- Archimedes’ Principle – 67 words
- Ten Commandments – 179 words
- Gettysburg Address – 286 words
- European Union rules on the sale of cabbages – 26,253 words
It pays to KISS!