Man after making mistake

Top 10 Public Speaking mistakes in 2014 (and how to avoid them in 2015!)

Over the last twelve months many, many presentations have been delivered. Most of them were disappointing for audiences. All of them could have easily improved if the presenter had avoided making some simple mistakes. In most cases the presenter was oblivious to the mistakes. After reviewing the list below you will know what the mistakes are, and how you can avoid them so your presentations are professional and polished in 2015 (and beyond!).


Mistake 1: Not knowing the purpose of the presentation

One of the biggest, and most common mistakes made is to not know the reason why you are speaking to an audience. When you are asked to deliver a speech or presentation your very first question should be “what do you need to achieve with the presentation?”.


When you know and answer that question you can ensure that the material you include is relevant to what you are trying to achieve with your presentation. This will make it easier for you to prepare the presentation.


Mistake 2: Not knowing who the audience is

If a speaker does not know whom they are talking to and what information they need to hear and understand how can they hope to influence their thinking? It is vitally important before any presentation that the speaker takes the time to analyse their audience. This enables them to find out what will persuade an audience, and identify what may push an audience away from accepting the information being presented.


When you take the time to understand whom you will be presenting to you reduce your stress preparing the presentation. Because you understand the information that they need to see or hear, how they like to receive information, and what motivates them.


Mistake 3: No rapport with the audience

It is not enough to simply deliver information to an audience. A successful presentation relies upon a rapport or connection between the presenter and their audience. When the rapport exists an almost magical flow of information and understanding between the speaker and the audience member occurs.


A connection between the speaker and the audience is not automatic. Rather the speaker needs to take the time to consider how he/she will start their presentation and what phrases and style they will use to build the connection with the audience.


Take the time with each presentation you deliver to think about how you will establish a connection with your audience.


Mistake 4: Apologising for not being prepared

This is two mistakes combined into one. Firstly, not being prepared is a mistake that should NEVER be made. However, if a speaker is not as prepared as they should be this should not be highlighted to the audience. The moment a speaker announces that he or she is not prepared they communicate to the audience that they do not care about the presentation. Armed with this information an audience mentally disengages – if the presentation is not important for the presenter why should an audience member consider the presentation important?


If you find yourself in a situation where you are not as prepared, as you’d like to be. Do not “advertise” it. Rather proceed with the presentation without telling your audience and do your best.


Mistake 5: Lack of personality when speaking

All the dull and boring presentations delivered in meeting rooms and board rooms around the world could be easily enlivened IF the presenter would inject some of their personality into the delivery of the presentation. Unfortunately they fall into “serious” mode; falsely believing that the audience wants a rigid and firm delivery of the facts. It is not enjoyable for anymore in the room when the presentation is delivered in this manner.


Whilst an audience needs an accurate reflection of the facts they also want and need to receive the information in an entertaining manner. Presentations delivered with some personality are better received and understood because an audience is engaged with the speaker and listens to every word they say.


Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your presentations!


Mistake 6: Providing too much detail

To solidify a position or argument in a presentation a presenter will often resort to bombarding the audience with every possible detail, argument or fact. This gives the presenter the belief that they have “all their bases covered”, and eliminates opportunity for dissenters in the audience.


Providing extensive details actually weakens the presenter’s position because the audience is unable to digest the detail being delivered to them. As a result they switch off and the presenter fails to inform them or persuade them like he or she thought they would.


If you take the time to understand your audience you can more easily identify the information that they see and hear to adopt the position you want them to take. This will allow you eliminate unnecessary information from your presentation and become more effective.


Mistake 7: Too many slides with too many words

This make should not be a surprise. It is accepted that many business presentation are boring and ineffective because of the dreaded “Death by PowerPoint” syndrome. PowerPoint has become a de-facto speech-writing tool, which results in the desperately poor presentations with dense slides and unenthusiastic delivery experienced in offices today.


This year make a conscious effort to do the following

  • Eliminate slides where you can; or
  • Utilise slides with full screen images (and one or two words only); or
  • Ensure graphs/Charts only communicate one piece of information; or
  • Use only four bullet points per slide


Mistake 8: Making the Presentation real and Emotional

In EVERY business presentation there is a real life story that can be told. What do I mean? Each fact, decision, or action impacts a staff member, customer, or supplier in some way. When a presentation is delivered it is to inform people of facts, to ask them to make decisions, or to take an action. Often just the raw facts and information is presented. Whilst this acceptable – it can be improved. Dramatically!


By simply translating the fact, decision, story into the resulting impact into real life stories or examples from your organisation you will get emotional support as well as the logical support with your presentation. This is an extremely powerful cocktail that will allow you to influence colleagues and clients to make things happen when you present.


Mistake 9: Not allowing the audience to think

During any presentation you want your audience thinking and considering your argument. To enable this to happen you need to give them time to think. Sadly, many presenters are focussed on completing their presentation that they rush the audience through the presentation.


A successful presenter takes the time to lead the audience through their presentation at a pace that suits the audience. Providing them mental breaks to absorb the information and consider what the presenter has said.


In your next presentation do not be afraid to slow down and pause after you have presented key thoughts or ideas.


 Mistake 10: Failing to rehearse

In the rush of day-to-day life this step in the process of preparing a presentation is skipped. It is easy to fool yourself into believing that you do not need to practice the presentation. By skipping this vital act you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to review the material and confirm it is right for your audience, and you are denying yourself the opportunity to ensure there are no preventable “glitches” in your presentation.


Take the time to rehearse and you will be rewarded with more successful and polished presentations, an enhanced reputation, and the career rewards that go with it.



All of the mistakes described are easily avoided. As we proceed into 2015 are you going to continue with the same behaviours that you had in 2014, or will you take the New Year as the opportunity to revitalise and enhance your skills?

Mark Kyte
Mark Kyte is a public speaking mentor and founder of the Public Speaking Skills Academy. Mark loves helping clients achieve dynamic results that help them increase their influence and get more clients. Read more of his blog and if you like what you see check out the mentoring programs.