Three Bad Habits When Public Speaking

People do strange things when standing infront of an audience. 

It's quite common and largely comes from how they are feeling in that moment. Perhaps they are nervous, feeling intimidated by the audience, or not completely sure of what they are doing. 

In this post, I'm going to outline three bad habits that creep into people's delivery when presenting. You'll likely resonate with at least one of them, either from your experience on stage, or as an audience member. 

The moving leg

I remember when I was in school, our production director was brilliant, creative and slightly intimidating as you'd expect from such a role. In my time at the school, I was fortunate to land a few lead roles, but this bad habit of a moving leg, was a big one for me. I'd constantly and unknowingly swing one leg or move around on the spot. It must have been so irritating to watch. 

In several rehearsals, I remember the director holding my feet to the stage as I delivered the script.  If you too, are a leg swinger, a foot mover, or you find yourself standing in a strange form whenever you present, become aware of it and work to adjust the bad habit. Lock your feet and knees in position and the rest of your body will follow the same confident stance.


Making random comments / awkward jokes 

This is a classic. In my world, I see it all the time when I have people from the audience on stage, participating in the show. Now on this occasion, it's excused. They have been thrust onto stage with no warning and there is always an element of fear about what they are about to experience. They'll try to be funny, they'll try to be clever, or they'll make comments out loud that make no sense.  You see it in conference hosts too. Welcoming delegates to the conference with all sorts of strange comments, observations and 'in jokes' that confuse half the audience. 

I've been in conferences where the host has randomly made sexist comments or similar, not because they want to be controversial or offensive, but in trying to be lighthearted and engaging, whilst also being a pack of nerves, they haven't given any thought as to what they are saying. 

The way to overcome this is to internalise your content so you don't have to think about it. As your confidence builds, this habit will cease to emerge.


Avoiding eye contact

I've never really agreed with the principle of 'looking over the top of heads'. I think it's obvious - and even if the audience can't tell the difference, I think they sense the lack of confidence in the speaker - and in doing so, the nervousness of the speaker becomes contagious, and unsettles the audience as they try to engage.

Make an effort to establish eye contact with people right across the audience. Move your gaze from front left, to back middle and then to front right. If that's scary, take a moment before you go on to identify the smiley people in those spaces, and focus on those throughout your presentation. 


Go further in your presentation skills 

I'm working on a membership for those who present upfront regularly and want to refine their presentation skillset. We'll take the top tips, tricks and strategies from the performing arts, to help you build confidence, competence and clear communication into your next presentation. 

Sign up to the mailing list, using the form below, to be updated when it launches... 

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