If you want to make your audience feel really bored or uncomfortable when you speak to them, here are my top 15 tips of things not to do (in no particular order):
- Put all your weight on one foot and have the other leg and foot strangely wrapped around the other leg while trying to keep your balance
- Stand with your legs really wide apart like you are straddling a horse
- Stand with your legs and feet really close together so you look like you’re gripping on for life
- Keep your hands in your pockets when speaking
- Keep your arms folded when speaking
- Wave your arms around randomly while speaking
- Look at the back of the room or out of the window while speaking – in other words, not at the audience
- Make strange nervous movements/expressions with your body or face
- Forget to smile
- Speak really fast
- Speak r-e-a-l-l-y slowly and in a monotone
- Mumble or speak really quietly
- Fidget with your hair or your clothes
- And my all time favourite, run off the stage/from the room
This may sound like a light-hearted post, but I have in fact seen all of the above used at different times over the years. The last one was particularly memorable. I was quite young and here was an older man who started out nervous and sweating and it just went downhill from there. Everyone in the audience was left dumbfounded as we couldn’t believe that someone would actually run off and leave the podium, saying “I can’t do this, I can’t do this”, never to return.
I appreciate that most of these habits are used to cover feelings of discomfort and embarrassment, but unfortunately they also have the effect of making the audience feel really bored or uncomfortable. This may mean that what the speaker is saying is completely lost or forgotten as the audience becomes more distracted by what the speaker is doing.
So next time you need to speak or give a presentation, take a moment to try and identify whether what you are doing is affecting the audience more than what you saying.