Is Perfection Killing your Public Speaking?

Speech Bubble_oopsIn one of my public speaking classes we had a spirited discussion about perfectionism and how the quest to be perfect can derail your public speaking.

One student reported that she was so nervous after stumbling on a word – which was basically inaudible to most present – that she fixated on that one moment for the rest of her presentation. That’s not unusual. Another expressed disappointment with herself because she was nervous in her final presentation. Yet another student said he was haunted by the prospect that he couldn’t live up to his family’s lofty expectations for him.  perfectionism and how the quest to be perfect can derail your public speaking.

What did they all have in common? The quest for the perfect can lead us to magnify our mistakes in our mind. It can also lead to closing up for fear that you’ll make a mistake or be less than perfect.

Perfection is rarely human, and sometimes we set the bar for ourselves too high. We have to meet unrealistic expectations, and, in doing so, set ourselves up for failure. To paraphrase Samuel Beckett, “Fail. Then fail better.”

Don’t hold back; rather, punch through the barriers you’ve set for yourself. If you stumble on a word momentarily, don’t let it be a roadblock on your path to good public speaking. Like a little pebble in a path, kick it aside and continue on. Resist the urge to fixate on it and turn it into an insurmountable boulder. Your audience will have long forgotten about it, and most of all, will usually appreciate you for having that most treasured of qualities: fallibility.

Punch up your presentation

Many of us are faced with the same situation.  You have to give a speech or presentation on a subject that is inherently dull.  How can you add interest and excitement?

Here are five ways to spruce up a dull presentation:

  • Change the pitch and dynamics of your voice to add variety to your sound. Speak higher and lower, louder and softer.
  • Vary your rhythm.  Decide when to slow down or speed up.
  • Add emphasis and strategic pauses.  For suspense or questions, pauses work well.
  • Use anecdotes.  Explain your points with a personalized story.
  • Involve the audience.  Ask rhetorical questions.

These hints are sure to add variety and punch to your presentation.

Do you have any thoughts to share?

Preparing a Power Point Presentation

What should you know?

There is nothing more dull than a poor Power Point presentation. So, here are some hints on how to liven up your presentation.

First, ask yourself  about the audience.  Here are some questions I posed myself for a recent client presentation in front of an audience of about 100 people:

What do I know about the audience?

  • Why is the audience there? This audience was participating in an annual meeting, so some  members were more vested in what I had to report than others.
  • What is your purpose? Mine was to demonstrate the value of my public relations program.
  • Are you part of a larger program or the main attraction? My presentation  was part of an overall meeting with other presenters preceding and following mine.

Given the above, I knew that I had to make my presentation engaging as well as informative.

My solution:

  • Grab audience attention by starting with a video clip of a news interview showing the client. The combination audio/visual speaks action.
  • Build suspense. Rather than start at the beginning of the report , I used an excerpt and said, “We’ll tell you more about it later.” This creates a sense of anticipation
  • Spice up the slides with visuals and colorful charts. There were a lot of statistics to report. To add interest, I used visuals and colorful charts.
  • Minimize slide content. To keep the pace moving, I limited the text on each page.

At Kundell Communications we work with people to improve their presentation skills in individualized sessions or group classes.  To learn more, visit

Microphone Tips

It’s a mistake many people make when public speaking.  You’re part of a program or a panel.  You get up to speak and you can’t be heard, you’re too loud, the microphone, or mic, is too high or too low.

To avoid being “caught by the mic,” arrive early and try to check microphone levels before the audience arrives.  Then, try out the mic.  Is the mic adjustable?  Can you change the height and angle?  If so, you’re in luck.  If not, don’t worry.  You will just have to compensate a bit.

  • If the mic doesn’t adjust and you’re too tall, don’t stoop down to it.  Try lowering you chin slightly as if speaking into the mic.
  • If you’re short and the mic is too high, ask for a small platform that you can stand on.  If one isn’t available, just stand as tall as you comfortably can, lift your chin, and speak up to the mic.
  • Try out words with letters that “pop,” such as p, t and d.  If the mic distorts, and sound levels can’t be adjusted, try standing slightly away from the mic.
  • If you can’t be heard well, concentrate on talking to the back of the room to help you project better.

Whether you’re short, tall, a loud or soft speaker, always pronounce your words clearly and support your voice.  Our “Techniques for Effective Public Speaking” teaches you how to project and support your voice so that you always sound your best.

Deadly Dull

I recently went to a memorial celebration for a friend who had died. There were about eight speakers, and of those, only two of them did a good job. The others were, well….deadly.

Why? For the most part, the others spoke in near monotones and with little or no energy. And, when the mike went out – which it did several times – it was impossible to hear them.

So, if you are called upon to present a testimonial or a tribute to someone, don’t get lulled into thinking that a microphone will do the job for you. You have to speak with energy, and be sure to use your breath.

That being said, the stage is set for our next post on the importance of breathing.

How many examples of dull speakers can you think of?