12 Most Basic Speaking Mistakes That Crumble A Seasoned Presenter

12 Most Basic Speaking Mistakes That Crumble A Seasoned Presenter

When not giving seminars on interpersonal communication skills, I’m officiating non-denominational wedding ceremonies. (Long story for another kind of post!) Recently, I attended a networking event for wedding professionals. Jack (name changed), the keynote speaker, was introducing a new website aimed at the Millennial bridal market.

Within minutes of Jack’s talking I began to wonder – does this guy know who we are?
Because I coach nervous professionals in how to present themselves in smart, strategic ways, I’m used to dealing with jittery neophytes. However, it’s been a long time since I attended a presentation offered by a supposed seasoned pro who truly “bombed.”

It’s happened to the best of us. It happened that night to Jack. However, in reflecting on his talk, I was most struck by how thorough he was in making the most basic of speaking mistakes. And Jack reminded me why those mistakes are so basic.

So here are the 12 Most basic speaking blunders that will turn off an audience from your great ideas:

1. Fail to establish credibility

Jack was not introduced by anyone in the wedding industry. He simply introduced himself and did so by giving us his resume – which contained no connection to the wedding industry. He had no story, however tenuous, that could assure us he had some sense of who we are as a professional group.

2. Dress inappropriately

Jack wore a standard issue blue suit and red tie that made him look both uncomfortable and too much like a salesman. Nit-picking? Sure, but because he failed to connect with us via a story, his clothes enhanced his overall appearance of an “outsider” not clued-in to who we are and what we’re about.

3. Use a schoolmarm tone of voice

After arousing our suspicions that he had little understanding of who we are as an audience, he began to recite statistics regarding the U.S. wedding industry. He presented the info in a tone that made me feel like I was in a classroom. He offered canned info that most of us knew already. He didn’t grasp that we were a group of seasoned pros at the top of our game.

4. Manhandle the mic

The mic was on a stand. When Jack spoke he tended to move away from the stand, which meant that his voice frequently dropped out, and those in the back of the room had a hard time hearing him.

5. Fumble with the PowerPoint

Jack got off to a shaky start, and when he couldn’t smoothly transition from slide to slide, he rapidly lost our trust in his competence. He became distracted, thrown-off balance and had difficulty talking “to” us.

6. Turn your back on the audience

At one point, there was a major glitch with the laptop. Jack focused on fixing the tech problem (even though there was a tech guy nearby), and he turned his back on us – and stopped talking. We all started talking with each other – about him!

7. Presume your co-presenter is prepared

Jack was co-presenting with a tech guy whose job was to explain the technical gaming innovations of the site. However, he failed to clearly set-up the concept of the website’s game. People quickly felt lost and asked questions tinged with annoyance. His abstract answers did not smooth over our concerns.

8. Play video of someone more engaging than you

At one point, Jack played a video from the founder of the website. While the video was polished it added two problems. First the founder was more engaging than Jack. And second, the founder is Irish, lives in Ireland and said nothing to make us believe he understood the American wedding market!

9. Do not directly answer questions

Jack had an agenda, and he was determined to stick to it at all costs. He spun all answers to the purposes of that agenda.

10. Make lame jokes

The jokes were made at the expense of his younger and better looking tech colleague. The jokes were aimed at the women in the audience (majority) but he didn’t realize that the group’s collective sense of humor was more sophisticated than his jokes.

11. Insult potential buyers

Jack explained that the page dedicated to vendors does not list photographers and videographers as separate categories. They both fall under the heading of “captured memories.” When a videographer pointed out that what he does is different from a photographer, Jack dismissed him, saying, “it’s all visuals.” Ouch!

12. Offer no way to follow-up

Jack ended by thanking us and said he hoped we’d consider joining this new and exciting wedding community. But, he gave us no info on how we could join and if there were a special introductory rate if we joined because of having attended the talk.
Twenty-four hours later, I couldn’t put into one sentence what Jack’s talk had been about.

Granted, Jack is not alone in bombing big time. We’ve all been there. Still, though, I’ve wondered why the talk crumbled the way it did.
I now realize that Jack’s biggest mistake was that he focused on selling a product and not forging a relationship with a new demographic – high-end wedding professionals. He wanted to impress rather than connect. And so it only makes sense that he made so many basic presentation mistakes.

Every person who sits in the audience is silently asking the presenter, “Do you see me? Do you know what I need?”

Mistakes abound when we forget that the competence is rooted in seeing the customer. People leave a winning presentation feeling that the presenter understood them and offered them something worth their time considering.

Jack made me re-examine my own style of presenting and reflect on where I’ve become sloppy. So, how about you – what more can you do to reassure people that you “see” them?

Photo credit: Big Stock Photos

J. P. Reynolds


JP Reynolds is an executive coach and corporate interpersonal communication skills trainer. JP regularly lectures on issues of communication and relationships at UCLA Extension. In addition, JP is a non-denominational wedding officiant. During the last twenty years he has celebrated over 1000 weddings—non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural.

12 Most