Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 22

Avoid These Presentation Gaffes

A recent viral video spoofing a well-known lecture series demonstrates several public speaking faux pas, says a communications expert.

Nick Morgan, author of Give Your Speech, Change the World: How to Move Your Audience to Action, recently spoke with Forbes about a video from satirists at The Onion poking fun at TED Talks, an online series of academic conversations focused on world-changing ideas. He notes that there are several "serious [public speaking] faux pas underlying this spoof" from which managers can learn. They include:

  • Kill the clichés. "There are some things speakers just shouldn't say," Morgan says. Some include: "It's not the destination; it's the journey," and "This is a paradigm-shifting idea."
  • Block the extended metaphor. "For some reason, speakers find it hard to resist, once they've begun with a metaphor, especially a sports metaphor, keeping it going long beyond what decency and sanity dictates," he says. "Metaphors are moments, not arguments. Don't hang your rhetorical structure on them."
  • Take a humility pill. "Audiences care more about themselves and their own problems than you, the speaker," Morgan says. "So don't make the talk about how you're feeling or the fascinating process by which you arrived at your current state of grace. Of course, to set against that, audiences do love it when the speaker shares a little of her life story—a relevant bit—because that humanizes her. The trick is knowing how much to share and when to stop."
  • Share the limelight. "You have temporary charge of that roomful of people as a speaker; you are the authority," he says. "The greatest gift you can give that audience, then, is to share the limelight with them. Far too many speakers don't leave space in their speeches for the audience, beyond the lame and obvious... Find ways to make your speech genuinely and usefully interactive."

This article is from the Nov. 26, 2012 issue.

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