Embarrassing Public Speaking Dilemmas (and How to Avoid Them)


It doesn’t matter how much you’ve prepped for a presentation or speech, there’s always the chance that something goes wrong, even if it’s as miniscule as stumbling over your words. For us recent grads who are new to the job scene, there’s nothing scarier than humiliating yourself in front of your co-workers.

The thought of embarrassing yourself during a speech will probably leave you wondering why you didn’t pay more attention in your Public Speaking 101 course. The truth of the matter is that you’re going to make mistakes; they are unavoidable. The crucial thing is learning how to recover from them. Consider the following public speaking dilemmas, and learn how to avoid them.

No One Has Seen Your Eyes for the Last Half Hour

There are times in life when eye contact can and should be avoided – like when you’re being reprimanded by your parents, when you’re within a 20-foot radius of your ex or when the teacher is scanning the room for someone to call on and you don’t know the answer. Public speaking, however, is not the time to neglect eye contact.

Eye contact is essential if you want to connect with your audience and keep them engaged. If you neglect proper eye contact, when you look up at the end of the speech and realize you never once looked at the people in the room, you’ll be mortified.

This is something that takes practice, but you can make notes reminding yourself to look up and make eye contact at the appropriate times.

Your Speech is Putting Everyone to Sleep

Think about the things you choose to watch for entertainment. They probably don’t include a bland, monotone speaker. If you’re reading strictly from your notes, not wavering to smile, crack a joke or insert a personal tidbit into your speech, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You’ll witness an immeasurable amount of yawns during this small time period if you’re boring. You don’t want to feel the pain of walking out of the conference room only to hear people celebrating that your presentation is finally over. To prevent this from happening, use powerful words and incorporate similes, metaphors and alliterations into your speech.

You Can’t Stop Stumbling Over Your Words

Stuttering is the worst when you’re on the spot. To avoid this catastrophe, take a deep breath before speaking or moving on to the next point. This will calm you down and allow you to talk more easily.

If you’re not speaking in your native language, this can be especially stressful when getting your point across and being understood. Stumbling over your words might simply be a symptom of talking too fast, so slow it down.

You Haven’t Paused Once

No one is going to keep up if you haven’t stopped to pause. Taking a break can be a scary task when all you’re trying to do is reach the finish line, but don’t underestimate the power of silence. It’s vital for transitions from point to point, but it’s also effective for letting an important point settle in with your audience. No one is going to take you seriously if you don’t give them a chance to.

Time your notes so that the pauses fall when you’re alternating your papers or notecards. You can also write yourself a short reminder at the bottom.

You’re Using Too Many Filler Words

Like, please like don’t go all, like, valley girl on us. This can be one of the most distracting parts of a speech. And when you realize people are tallying how many times you’ve said “uh,” it will sting.

Recognizing your habit is the most important part to breaking the habit. Recording yourself speaking a few times and listening to where you’re inserting filler words will help you avoid it next time. Hearing “like” 30 times throughout your speech will drive you crazy enough to stop.

You’re Late to Your Own Presentation

Showing up late is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, especially when everyone is waiting on you to start. Give yourself ample time in the morning – even if that means setting six alarms – and prepare your clothing and notes the night before. Your morning should be easy so you’re not rushed on the road and you can arrive early without breaking good driving etiquette and endangering others on the road.

All of the above mistakes are sure to be cringe-worthy. But if you remember a few of these tips, you’ll have your audience engaged and smiling at the insightful things you have to say.

****Campus to Career thanks to Sarah Landrum for this insightful post!!****

sarah landrum head shotAbout the author: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum


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