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Discussion on common public speaking flaws, goofs and errors and suggestions on how to improve public speaking skills

As I listen to TED speakers, I notice that many will begin sentences speaking loudly and clearly, then end sentences with increased speed and decreased volume. Some are very difficult to understand. Others are down right impossible to understand.


This prompted the idea of making suggestions for improved public speaking

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    Jun 14 2012: The fact that speaking in public is the greatest fear of man must be recognized. Some people are very public and some are very private. When I speak I always do my homework. To understand the target population is essential. What are the goals of the group. There is always a group dynamic to contend with. Why were you asked to speak? Use references that are connected to the subject and meaningful to the group. By being aware of these things you can immediately connect with the audience which is essential.

    Flaws goofs and errors happen more often to those who do not research and properly prepare. A dynamic speech is the result of hard work and practice, practice, practice ......

    To improve public speaking there are many clubs, churches, and organizations. But they all offer the same thing. Get up and get in the game.

    All the best. Bob
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    Jun 14 2012: As to your observation regarding decreased speed and volume at the end of sentences, we think that this is our natural tendency in speaking. Slowing down at the end of ideas helps reinforce to the audience the completion of a thought. Obviously, speakers should not reduce volume to the point of not being clearly heard.

    I teach public presentation skills, and it's not normally a single type of goof or error that results in a poor presentation. However, if I were to point to the single most critical error in public presentations, it would be failing to connect with or engage the audience.
  • Jul 14 2012: The two things that need to be avoided with public speaking are being politically correct and speaking to the camera, not the audience. Seriously. Talk like the rest of us, and talk to us, not the camera.
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    Jun 15 2012: I will disagree slightly with some of my fellow TEDsters here. Substance does indeed trump style, however, without style impact will suffer. You have to build a certain amount of pizzaz or emotion into a good talk in order to pluck the string that you are trying to pluck. Let's not forget that every single talk on this site has a purpose, some of them huge, some small. Achieving that purpose, or, at least taking a few steps in the right direction, is every TED talker's goal. Without the elements of a good speaker you risk losing the impact you are trying to achieve regardless of the quality of your substance.

    I speak quite often to executives, managers, non-profits, journalists, my team, etc. and I am careful that I do not lose the battle of balance, balance, balance.
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    Jun 14 2012: I spent a few years in Toastmasters and I don't see a lot of flaws in the speaking in fact some of them are awesome especially with their ability to make the talk humorous.
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    Jun 14 2012: I agree with Edward--substance trumps style. Of course, some presenter's poor style can get in the way of the substance. That said, audience's should and do forgive most delivery missteps when there is substance. And, a speaker who conveys a passion for his/her subject is more likley to connect to an audience. Paasion can be contagious.
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    Jun 14 2012: The most compelling, persuasive presentations are not always delivered with eloquence and flawless technique. A persenter who is driven by honest passion burning within their heart and soul will rivet the attention of the audience. Rarely do you hear the question, "Did you hear HOW she talked?" More often the question is, "Wow! did you hear WHAT she said?" Uncontrived passion and sincerity, that's the trick.
  • Jun 14 2012: Yes, Daily; I concur. We all should keep in mind that quality of speech delivery is vitally important, as some folks have a bit of difficulty hearing. Amplitude (volume) is not the only concern. Distinction, discerning inflection, pronunciation are key elements for good understanding. Many speakers, including President Obama, drop volume at the last word or two of a sentence. It is not fun to frequently need to ask someone else what was said; it is not fun to be bothered for clarifications, either!

    Mechanical devices for speech should be high quality. The placement of speech pickup devices, microphones, is vital to improve quality. Some TED speakers use a boom mic that features sound pickup very close to the mouth, but the speaker you cited had the mic mounted on his lapel. This is a bad location for some venues, especially for some speakers. Many vocal artists use a boom mic, some designed to be nearly invisible. Emergency 911 operators use boom mics for quality and for hands-free operation.

    I agree training could be available. But, as Philip says, perhaps people reading your conversation they will do what they can to get out the word that speech quality is important. It seems unlikely to control everything, however.

    Those who do train are able to deliver with higher quality. After all is said, communication attempts are successful when hearers and readers understand what is expressed. If not understood, then what was communicated?

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    Jun 14 2012: It's a common problem. Like a race, public speaking may have a strong start but then it quickly reduces to the person's normal speaking style or their training. When the speaker realizes he's coming into the final stretch, he tries to give it a strong finish. I don't think there needs to be a conversation about giving advice to speakers, just give advice. If they read the comments, you'll know they've taken your advice to heart either by responding or incorporating it the next time they talk.