5 Speaker Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Idiot

Speaking is a cutthroat industry.

It’s easy to get a reputation as a below-par speaker, ruining your chances of booking more talks. We’ve listed 5 of the biggest mistakes a speaker can make, to help you avoid falling into their traps.

Arriving Late


The ultimate sign of unprofessionalism, arriving late should be avoided wherever possible. Sometimes, being late is unavoidable, and people will understand if you’re late once or twice, but if it keeps happening you will gain a negative reputation.

Not Handling Errors Well


The way you handle mistakes reveals a lot to your audience. Sometimes the mistakes will be your own, sometimes the mistakes will be by your event organiser, and sometimes the mistakes will be inevitable technical errors. No matter what, make sure you stay calm and, where possible, continue on with the speech without speeding up and looking panicked.

Getting Your Facts From Unreputable Sources


Having figures and facts is a fantastic way to provide evidence for your argument. However, you should be providing a source for this on your slideshow, and, if your statistics are straight from Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, a tabloid paper or an unofficial website, your reputability will drop. Make sure your statistics come from official bodies, and, where possible, view the raw data, so that your view on the numbers isn’t wholly skewed by other people’s interpretations.

The Stagnant Opening Joke


One of the old school ‘speaking tricks’ is to open on a joke, to relax your audience and make them feel comfortable. However, nowadays this feels stagnant and cold. Unless you’re a very funny individual, stay away from the opening quip.

Slides That Look Like This…

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 13.04.46

Angled word art, spelling mistakes, incomprehensible data, too much text; this slide has it all. Whilst this is an extreme example, slides that commit some of these slideshow sins are a mess that poor unsuspecting attendees have to wade through, trying to decipher what you’re actually trying to tell them.

Photo Credit: Düss, Corrie…, shehan365, and twm1340, all via Compfight cc