7 Deadly Sins of Public Speaking to be avoided at all costs

7 Deadly Sins of Public Speaking to be avoided at all costs:


You’ve got a presentation to give. You make a mental note to set aside some time to properly prepare. Then work, kids, Netflix, and general life intervene and before you know it, it’s an hour before the presentation and your sweating buckets trying to figure out what to say. 

The single biggest mistake you can make as you strive to be a better communicator is to put insufficient effort into your preparation. As the saying goes: Fail to prepare and you should prepare to fail. So do yourself a favour and prepare, practise, and prepare some more.



I used to struggle to convince people about this one until 2016 changed what all of us think about facts vs feelings. If there is any silver-lining on the whole Trump, Brexit, and other surprising election results it is that people now appreciate the primacy of emotions over reason when it comes to communication.

Within just a few hours of your speech, people will have forgotten most of what you said. This means that packing your presentation with facts and minute detail is pointless and counter-productive. 

Facts are important. But feelings trump facts. If you don’t move your audience emotionally in some way, they will not engage with your speech. If you do move them, as 2016 has shown, you can pretty much say anything and they’ll buy it. Sad (as President Trump would tweet) – but true!

3. Sorry, I’m not really used to public speaking

Stop starting your speeches with an apology!

We get it. You’re nervous. Every public speaker gets nervous. Deal with it. We don’t need to be told. More to the point if you didn’t tell us, we probably wouldn’t even notice, but now because you did, we do. So don’t!

4. Going on and on and on…and on and on and on

Martin Luther King’s – ‘I have a dream speech’. The seminal moment of the civil rights movement that changed the entire trajectory of American society: Length – 16 minutes

If these amazing speeches could change the world in just a few minutes, what on God’s green earth do you have to say that is so important that you need an hour to say it (or even half an hour, or even 20 minutes)?

K.I.S.S. – Keep it short and simple!

The impact of what you say is inversely proportional to the length of time it takes for you to say it. So the longer you go on, the less effective your words.

So K.I.S.S. (which I prefer to say really stands for) Keep it short, STUPID!


5. Fast-talking 

And don’t think you can get around the ‘keep it short’ thing by just cramming in as many words as you can in a short space of time.

Speaking too quickly just means you give yourself less time to think, and your audience gets no chance to fully digest your words.

Silence is an underrated tool in the arsenal of any speechmaker. The Power of the Pregnant Pause is formidable. Speaking more slowly and more deliberately will infuse your words with a greater sense of authority and gravitas.

6. What’s the point?

If you give a speech without first having worked out what the purpose is, you are by definition giving a pointless speech.

The only thing worse than listening to a speech that has no point, is giving one.

Don’t waste people’s time or value by giving a speech that has no point.

Have a purpose. Make your speech valuable enough to make it worthwhile to listen to you.

If what you have to say is really not worth the effort of turning up to hear it, send them an email instead!

7. Do you even know who you’re talking to? 

If you don’t know who you are speaking with, how will you know what to say?

Novice speechmakers will prepare their words in isolation without any real regard to the audience in front of them. Then when the moment comes, words fail to connect, jokes fall flat, and the whole speech is a washout.

Audience analysis is a big deal with many sides to it. I could give you a long list of things you should know about your audience, but when it comes down to it, there are really only two things you need to know:

1) Who is in your audience?

2) What do they currently think, feel, or believe, about the topic of your speech?

If you know those two things, you’ll be clear about how to and how not to speak to that audience.


There it is. Seven Deadly Sins to avoid.

Commit them and you will be condemned to public speaking hell – audience indifference (believe me, it hurts when you give a speech and people’s response is just ‘meh’!).

Avoid them and it’s public speaking heaven – cue the applause!

Original article from Kolarele Sonaike, Public Speaking Consultant, The Great Speech Consultancy

A couple of other articles that may be of interest: 

  1. Famous people that struggled with public speaking

  2. How to prepare for a speech 

  3. If your answer to this question is ‘Yes!’ then you can be a brilliant public speaker

First photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Second photo by Liam Martens on Unsplash

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