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‹ View all articles 30th October 2013

Are you a Nightmare Public Speaker?

Public Speaking Essentials

The business world is full of underwhelming public speakers – but do are you your audience’s sweetest dream or worst nightmare? Check out the six most common types of Nightmare Speaker and ask yourself honestly – do you fall into any of these traps?

Lecturing Lawrence

Typical profile: An expert in his field with little understanding of how to translate that expertise ‘onto stage’. Often knowledgeable in an area that seems highly technical to his audience, Lawrence has a tendency to take the high-ground over an audience and is reluctant to ‘dumb things down’ or ‘spice things up’ for the sake of the audience. He will typically be found speaking for far longer than his allotted time and has one or more quirk in his speaking that displays his lack of awareness for his speaking abilities. Impact:

  • Lawrence and his organisation perceived as lacking in awareness, undynamic and incapable of basic communication skills
  • “Chinese whispers” effect where audiences, competitors and colleagues pass word about Lawrence’s poor public speaking, without delivering feedback to him directly.
  • Potential for reduced respect for Lawrence and his organisation
  • Audience switch off / opportunity missed for spreading his message

Diagnosis: Lawrence is a speaker lacking in Awareness.

Remedy: His remedy is a foundational public speaking course to show him what affect his performance is having. Without developing his awareness, he will remain ignorant of his negative impact upon the audience. Lawrence should receive detailed feedback about his performance, including being videoed, plus he should be offered some basic structures for building his awareness and adjusting his performance as he speaks.

 

Inappropriate Ian Typical profile: Often found delivering persuasive speeches or pitches or trying (and failing) to motivate a team, Inappropriate Ian fails to grasp the audience’s perception of him, his topic, or how he is presenting it. His style feels inappropriate, or even grating to the audience and he might be perceived by the audience as arrogant, insensitive, or pushy. A confident speaker, it’s Ian’s delivery and relationship with the audience that are poorly received.

Impact:

  • Audience feel at best misunderstood and at worst, attacked
  • Audience feel ‘talked at’ rather than engaged with
  • Audience become closed to his message and even spread negative word-of-mouth about the speaker / his organisation.
  • Strong negative impact upon the perception of Ian and his organisation.

Diagnosis: Owen is speaker lacking in Empathy.

Remedy: As an experienced speaker, Ian requires a different style of training. To develop empathy, he should look at Audience Focused Preparation techniques and develop more advanced and sensitive ways of interacting with an audience. His training should focus on methods for judging the mood of an audience and facilitation skills.

Same Old Susan Typical profile: Bland and indistinctive, Same Old Susan’s public speaking relies on clichéd modes of delivery that have been seen too many times. Susan typically reaches for a set of generic powerpoint slides when asked to speak, because she is averse to risk and doesn’t know how else to influence. Tolerating, rather than enjoying public speaking, Same Old Susan would rather ‘get through it’ than try something different. At any rate, Susan is a busy individual and would rather not think about it.

Impact:

  • Same Old Susan fails to add anything innovative or memorable into her presentation
  • Audience perceive the message as identical to every other
  • The message will not be remembered – time & resources wasted
  • Generally the brand image effect will be neutral-to-negative

Diagnosis: Same Old Susan is lacking in Freshness Remedy: Susan needs confidence and inspiration if she is to make a mark through her speaking. Her training should focus around the visual, verbal and interactive techniques she can use to create memorable moments in her speaking. Through practice and coaching, she can stretch her range and devise a number of tools to help her shine in any speaking scenario.

 

Jumbled Jack Typical profile: Whilst Jumbled Jack has the confidence and charisma of an excellent speaker, his thoughts and arguments are constructed in a confusing way for the audience. Lacking in adequate preparation, practice or structure, Jack’s public speaking appears to jump around from one topic to the next, with no apparent purpose. Often displaying huge amounts of enthusiasm, Jumbled Jack may win his audience’s hearts, but they rarely remember his message.

Impact:

  • Cluttered, unclear message
  • Positive feelings towards the speaker, but not necessarily towards the topic.
  • Missed opportunity to influence or inspire
  • Audiences leave feeling like they’ve been bombarded with lots of information, but can’t remember why the talk was relevant, or what its aim was.

Diagnosis: Jumbled Jack is lacking in Balance

Remedy: With a little training and feedback, Jumbled Jack could turn into a powerful speaker. His learning should focus around the structuring, or balance, of information. Jumbled Jack would benefit from learning how to plot the dramatic flow of a speech or talk, how to craft a plot and how to use memory techniques to ‘chunk’ and learn information.

Wendy Wet Blanket Typical profile: A professional in a position of influence – such as management - Wendy struggles to make demands of her audience. This is known as a failure to ‘claim the audience’. Wendy Wet Blanket delivers speaking which is pleasant to listen to and may even be a skilled public speaker, but she leaves her audience feeling ‘that was nice’, rather than leaving with an imperative to act.

Impact:

  • Wendy is generally liked and understood, but can come across as apologetic and lacking in gravitas
  • Audience leave without being influenced –opportunity missed for gaining impact
  • Brand image effect is neutral-to-positive, but not as positive as it could be
  • Wendy is unlikely to be considered a candidate for further leadership opportunities

Diagnosis: Wendy Wet Blanket is lacking in Fearlessness

Remedy: Wendy needs to step outside her comfort zone in order to start making a true impact. Through practice in supported environments she can uncover her limitations and step through them. This might involve developing a more clear and assertive message of change and forming a more definite stage persona.

Cringeworthy Chris

Typical profile: A seasoned speaker, Cringeworthy Chris has learned all the tricks in the public speaking book, yet there’s something funny-feeling about him. By using too many tricks & techniques he alienates his audience and either leaves the audience feeling cold, or feeling like they’ve been manipulated.

Impact:

  • Leaves a funny taste in the mouth
  • Audience dislike him, but aren’t sure quite why
  • Comes across as ‘overly corporate’ or fake as a speaker
  • May be convincing in certain situations, but won’t instil huge amounts of trust or openness in the audience

Diagnosis: Cringeworthy Chris is lacking in Authenticity

Remedy: Chris probably has a talent for speaking, but to be truly powerful he needs to find his own voice rather than someone else’s. Chris will develop best by learning how to express the ‘real me’ on stage. It might involve being really open & honest with the audience, but he will benefit in the long run from the greater trust he creates.

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