• Andrea Spyros

5 Mistakes You’re Making in Public Speaking

Advice from Roger Love’s Voice of Success

One of the most nerve-racking experiences for many is public speaking. Regardless of your comfort level, there are things you can do to improve your outcome. We all deal with different problems when it comes to selling or presenting anything.

You might feel…

  • passed over for a promotion.

  • that you never get a yes to your proposals.

  • so nervous you perform terribly.

  • constantly challenged for what you say.

Or, maybe you have the chops but your confidence is off and it comes through in your voice.

Everything from body language to voice inflection plays a part in getting those desired outcomes. After taking “Voice of Success” by Roger Love, I now understand that your voice can be the key to your success and most people are making some serious (but easily fixed) mistakes.

Mistake #1: You speak in a monotone voice

Think Ferris Bueller. Actor Ben Stein is famous for his monotone delivery. What makes him stand out as a character is how boring his class is because it appears as though there is no heart behind the message. Perhaps we become monotone because we’ve rehearsed something so much and forget that others are hearing it for the first time.

Listen to your talks. It’s always good practice to rehearse any big talk, even if the audience is just your boss or your spouse if you’re looking for solid results. If you notice that sounding monotone is an issue for you, practice adding a slight range.

Try to think of your voice as an instrument and change your pitch. Think of speaking more in a melody. One of the keys to improving this skill is to remember that when you go down in tone it makes people think they’re depressed and it brings others down with you. Going up in tone will energize your message and your listeners.

Mistake #2: You don’t breathe properly

Proper breathing is essential to practice when speaking in public. It helps your voice sound clear and crisp and not gravely like the actor Sam Elliott. While some people consider this sexy, it’s not necessarily a powerful way to get your message across. It’s also terrible for your throat and could cause you to lose your voice. Gravely voice happens when you run out of air. Speak only on the exhale and breathe more frequently to solve this problem.

Mistake #3: You clear their throat too much

When a presenter is clearing their throat too much it is downright annoying. The remedy here is to swallow more. Pause, close your mouth and swallow--quietly. When you clear your throat it just moves the phlegm from one place to another in your vocal cords. Swallowing gets rid of it. Swallowing can be used as a place to help you slow down and take a pause.

I always recommend having a glass of water with you when speaking out loud. Our mouths absorb a lot and you never know what particle might enter that causes you to break in your talk and clear your throat.

If this is you, record yourself and count how many times you clear your throat. Then record again using those moments to pause and swallow, or perhaps, taking a drink of water to let an idea hang in the air for a moment. This lets the audience know you are not in a rush and it will come off as confidence.

As a side note, I am putting smacking your mouth or making funny mouth noises in this #reallyannoying category. If you try recording and listening to yourself you will know if this is you.

Mistake #4: You don’t pause

During the pause, your audience has time to integrate the information you just put out. This gives them time to absorb the information instead of rushing past it. If you are excited or passionate about what you are saying you want to be sure that information has time to sink it. Otherwise, it’s like side-swiping them in your car and driving off. You have to let the audience absorb the information.

Oftentimes speakers use filler words, like “um” or “er” or “so.” They don’t want to pause. This comes from a place of believing you’re going to lose your listeners if you are quiet. But if you embrace the pause, it’s gifting the listener a moment to integrate. You think filler words let the audience know you aren’t finished talking so they won’t leave. They show a lack of trust in your listeners and your speaking abilities.

A quick tip for learning to pause is to have that glass of water handy and take a sip during the moments where you want them to integrate. Also, remember that what you may think is a very long uncomfortable pause is very short to your listeners.

Mistake #5: Your voice is too airy

Think Marylin Monroe or Billie Eilish. Great for playing the ingenue or singing, but not for driving home hard-hitting points or commanding attention in the room.

If you find that you speak too airy you won’t exude confidence. Speak with more of an edge and let the softness go. Try to speak in a lower tone and practice speaking on the exhale only. Speak only when the stomach is going in and the air is going out.

You will want to practice because you don’t want this technique to have you speaking in a monotone voice, so be sure when speaking in a lower voice that you are going up only on the commas and the periods. These small adjustments will help you to sound more confident and engaging.

Relationships are all about language

We use our voice and vocabulary in all relationships. At work, at home, in the grocery store. It’s about connecting with the audience in front of you in the right way (even if it’s only one person).

People might misinterpret you as angry or not empathetic based on your delivery. You can instantly change the relationship with your audience by making simple shifts in how you use your voice.

Using your voice is a tool to help you advance if you know how to control it to get results.

Back in February of this year, I wrote an article, 7 Steps to Running a Successful Virtual Presentation. In it, I go into other sensory things to pay attention to ensure the best results from your hard work.

Awareness is a huge part of your delivery and I cannot state enough the importance of practicing these techniques ahead of time.

Pitch, pace, tone, melody, and volume are what Roger considers his 5 communications to effectively refine your message. I highly recommend Roger and the work he shares. He is a true leader in his field and has helped many, including me, to become the best communicator even in the most challenging situations.

When it comes to communication it is always good practice to be generous in your words and offer value in what you present. If you don’t, others will feel this and it won’t matter much how you speak.

Give these small hacks a try and let me know how it goes for you.

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