In this article I discuss some of the common habits that speakers unknowingly exhibit while presenting, how to spot them, and ways to overcome them.
Do you look at your watch to check the time? Time is extremely important when we are presenting. We don’t want to talk past our limit, but we do want to fill the time we are expected to fill. This causes many presenters to look at their watches continually. This causes the audience members to start looking at their watches and become more concerned with the passage of time than the important information we are trying to impart.
There are several ways to work around this distraction. If you have a lectern or a table, you can place a small travel clock that it easy to read from a distance, so that a quick glance will be inconspicuous. Another aid is to ask a friend to sit fairly close to the front of the room and give an agreed-upon signal when you have five to ten minutes remaining, so you can start your closing without rushing.
Banish the use of filler words from your speech. By “filler words” I mean the ums, ahs, ers, you-knows, ands, buts, and any other word that you may be using to excess. Often we are not aware that we are filling our presentations with distracting words, so the best way to spot them is to ask someone to tape your presentation. Listen to the tape in the privacy of your home or office. You will be astounded. There may not be any “ums” or those kinds of fillers, but you may be saying a word over and over again. The first time I tried this, I found that I said “and” close to thirty times at the beginning of or between sentences. Once you are aware of this habit, you just need to stop and pause for a moment, and then clamp your mouth shut before you let one escape.
Keep your hands off and out of your clothing. I can’t begin to tell you how many speakers I have observed who put their hands in their pockets — and even jingle change. Talk about a distraction! I also witnessed a well-known woman speaker who kept smoothing her skirt and another who kept pulling the front of her jacket together. Neither was aware of what she was doing, but part of the problem arose because they were either nervous and/or uncomfortable with the clothing they were wearing. If you can find someone to video your presentation, you will be amazed with the little habits you have acquired over the years.
What bad habits have you acquired? Work to erase them and your speaking expertise will reach a brand new plateau.