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No matter who you are or where you come from, public speaking is scary. It’s just a fact of life! 

Whether it’s a presentation for school or a speech in front of the whole office, getting up in front of lots of people to speak about something (or even ask something of them) can be a seriously unpleasant experience. But with the right preparation and tips, you can make your next public speaking engagement a huge success– and have some fun along the way. 

Read on to find out the top seven public speaking mistakes and what to do instead. 

1. Neglecting Self Care

Let’s start with the basics: self care! When prepping for a public speaking engagement, it can be easy to set aside your needs to make sure the project gets done. (Looking at you, procrastinators extraordinaire.)

But in reality, your self care is an important part of the preparation process. For example, exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety and boost confidence, productivity, and creativity. Whether you’re just starting to write your presentation or you’re giving it later that day, a bit of exercise can make a huge difference in your public speaking skills. 

2. Forgetting to Eat

Another common mistake people make is not eating the day of the presentation. Many times, people who are anxious about public speaking will experience an upset stomach and decreased appetite. So, they’ll choose not to eat until after the presentation.

The problem with this is that food is fuel for your body! Without it, you may become lightheaded, experience increased anxiety, start shaking, or even lose consciousness in extremely stressful situations.

To really hone your presentation skills, you have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself first. 

3. Image Matters!

Whoever said “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” clearly wasn’t talking about public speaking. While we’d all like to imagine that our ideas can stand for themselves, presenting yourself well is a huge part of getting an audience to listen to you.

So what does this mean? Well, a large part of your image is how you carry yourself. The right posture and stance can take you from an eight on the confidence scale to a full ten!

One exercise you can try is a power pose, also known as “superhero pose.” Before going on stage, take a few seconds to stand like you’d see Superman stand on a movie poster. It’s clinically proven to increase your confidence prior to walking on stage. 

4. Dress the Part

Dressing the part for a public speaking engagement is a simple combination of style and comfort.

In terms of style, you’ll want to match the formality and context of your speaking engagement. One way of doing this is to consider what you might wear as an audience member, and then step that style up by just a notch. That way, you’re the best-dressed person in the room without looking overly formal.

While style is important, be careful not to push yourself out of your comfort zone in the name of fashion. While heels may elevate an outfit (literally), they can also make you feel unsteady if you’re not used to them. Choose clothing that you’ll be comfortable in and you’ll set yourself up for public speaking success.

5. Theoretical Preparation

This is one of the most common public speaking mistakes that people make. It’s one thing to write down your remarks and read through them in your head. But saying all that stuff out loud adds so many layers of complexity to the situation!

Simply reading through what you plan to say isn’t enough to really prepare you for a situation. You need to practice saying all of the words out loud so you don’t end up tripping over your words while, for example, giving a valedictorian speech

Reading your presentation out loud will also help you get a feel for your timing. Not only will you have a more accurate estimate of how long your presentation will take, but you’ll be able to practice your timing mid-speech for rhetorical effect.

Speaking your presentation out loud will also help you hone your tone of voice as well as your facial expressions and bodily motions. This will prevent you from placing emphasis on the wrong words or ideas during your talk. 

6. Over-preparing

There’s a delicate balance between thorough preparation and too much preparation! So how can you tell the difference?

It all has to do with the types of preparation you’re doing. Practicing out loud, for example, is great. Making sure your visual aides are organized and ready to go is also appropriate.

But if you’ve written down every single word you plan to say on a piece of paper for you to use, stop while you’re ahead! Part of being an effective public speaker is being genuine. If you’re reading from a piece of paper in a monotone voice because you’ve over-prepared your statements, you’ll actually undermine your public speaking instead of improving it. 

7. Subconscious Public Speaking Mistakes

Some public speaking no-nos are clear to the speaker: a shakey voice, stumbling over your words, or sweating through your top are all things you’ll notice while they’re happening. 

But to really up your public speaking game, you’ll want to look out for the public speaking mistakes you might not normally notice.

For example, there are certain mannerisms that display nervousness to the audience. For example, wringing your hands or nervously playing with your hair will key them in to your anxiety. 

Additionally, many of us use filler words like “um,” “uh,” “aaaaand,” “sooo,” et cetera. Everyone uses these, so don’t panic if an “um” slips out.

That said, the more fillers you use, the less confident you’ll seem. There’s nothing wrong with taking a deep breath between sentences or a silent pause while you find your place. Not every moment of a speaking engagement has to be filled with speech!

The Key to Good Public Speaking

There’s one tip we can give you that will help mitigate pretty much all of the public speaking mistakes listed here: Remember that you’re human!

You’re going to stutter. You might mispronounce something. Maybe one of your jokes falls flat. 

But ultimately, everyone you’re speaking to knows what it’s like to be center stage and knows that it takes a lot of courage to do so. As long as you connect with your audience, accept your mistakes, and keep going, there’s no public speaking mistake you can’t handle!

For more tips on public speaking, check out our other blog posts!

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