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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Speaking and Presentations


15 Fatal Flaws Inexperienced Speakers Make

Avoid These Platform Gaffes And Start Presenting Like A Pro

Bill Cole, MS, MA

When you sit and watch an experienced professional speaker take hold of an audience, you are seeing magic in action. They make everything look so easy and smooth, you wonder, "Were they born with a silver microphone in their mouth?"

In actuality, all that platform polish comes with the price of many years of hard work and training. That's how they make everything come off with such seeming ease. They've paid their dues many times over.

If you are less experienced than you'd like to be, you probably make some errors in speaking that could be easily fixed. If you just knew what they are!! That's the purpose of this article. I want you to know the most common speaking mistakes that people new to speaking make. Once you know these, your confidence and effectiveness as a speaker will multiply many fold.

Here we go, the 15 most common speaking gaffes speech-givers make.

1. STOP arriving to your program at the last minute so even you wonder if you are going to make it on time. What do you suppose this does to the audience and organizers who are stressed out from not knowing if they will have a speaker?

2. STOP playing fast and loose with the clock. You can't simply start and stop your talk on your own terms. The organizers have a schedule to keep and your audience wants to be respected for their valuable time as well. Stay on schedule, and preferably, stop a bit earlier than you said you would to take questions.

3. STOP jumping into your talk without attempting to gain some rapport with your audience. All audiences need to be warmed up, and taking the time to do this can help you give a better performance as well.

4. STOP trying to "wing it" by making up your talk as you go, and "speaking from experience". Professional speakers don't even do this, so don't think you can get away with it. The audience will know.

5. STOP being so theoretical, conceptual, intellectual and statistical. These are all guaranteed to turn off any audience and turn them against you. People want practical, useable material they can apply to their lives and careers, not heavy academic, jargon-laden content that requires a Ph.D. to understand.

6. STOP trying to be all things to all people as you speak, by wandering all over creation in an attempt to be "comprehensive" or a "renaissance person". You'll simply confuse people, who will be wondering what your topic is, and why they came to your program.

7. STOP dressing like you just came from a beach party or a backyard barbecue, or like you are on the way to the hairdresser. Audiences like their speakers to look sharp, professional and well put together. At the minimum, a well-kept look gives you extra points on credibility before you even open your mouth. First impressions count.

8. STOP using the same speech for every audience. Do audience research and customize your talks. Your audience will really appreciate that and probably ask you back for more. You at least will be speaking their language and hit the mark better than with a canned presentation.

9. STOP assuming that all your audiovisual equipment and room have been set up properly by someone, or that nothing has changed since you last touched it. This is the stuff of disasters, and something you can easily avoid.

10. STOP negating the value of solid writing, platform and staging skills. Every audience deserves the best speaker they can get, and you have an obligation to continue improving on your speaking skills every year.

11. STOP boring the audience. Enough said?

12. STOP overwhelming the audience with too much, or unnecessary information they don't want or need. If you do your homework, you'll know what will please them.

13. STOP teasing the audience by being miserly about how much detail you are willing to give in your content. Some speakers say to the audience, "I won't give you that information, because it's in my book." Perhaps some audiences might be thinking, "I won't be giving you my money for your book."

14. STOP being insensitive. Don't use negative, disrespectful and uninformed jokes, stories, remarks, news events and other content that will alienate your audiences, unless you have a good lawyer on retainer.

15. STOP displaying such a big ego. Remember, speaking is all about the audience and their needs, not the speaker's gratification.

I know now you will START planning better, crafting your speech better and staging and delivering your speech with more attention to the needs of the audience. I also know you will STOP making any more of the 15 fatal flaws we just reviewed. Thanks for listening! And enjoy your speaking. Your audiences will really appreciate the new you! You just moved your speaking skills up a complete level!

To learn more about how presentation coaching can help you become a better, more confident speaker, visit Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach™ at

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA 2005, 2011 All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 66-item presentation skills assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game of speaking and giving presentations.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

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