Mythbusters: Avoid these two pieces of common public speaking advice

By Lori

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Famous in your field tip: avoid these two public speaking mistakes

Famous in your field tip: avoid these two public speaking mistakes

Today at Famous in Your Field, we’re going Mythbusters to debunk bad public speaking advice. These are the two tips that get passed out like leftover Halloween candy.

But they’re dead wrong.

Let’s jump into the bad advice and what you should do instead.

Speaking tip to ignore #1 – Look over their heads

When you were in junior high and had to give a speech in class, did your parents or a friend advise you to get over your nerves by looking just over your audience member’s heads at an invisible horizon?

Or to look at people, but focus on the space between their eyes.

No good. People can tell when you’re not looking directly at them and it’s weird.

Those techniques focus on helping you get over your nerves by breaking the connection between you and the audience members.

Speaking tip to ignore #2 – Constantly scan the room

Now, you’re in your high school or college speech class. Your teacher advises you to make eye contact with everyone in the audience. The idea is that you’re reaching everyone, leaving no one out.

Couldn’t. Be. More. Wrong.

When your eyes restlessly move through every person in the audience, they do not feel connected with you. What they feel is that you’re nervous, shifty and inauthentic. Connection killer.

Here’s what you do instead:

1. Speak to one person (at a time)

But, there’s a little bit of an art to this:

  • Scan the audience and pick one person. Speak directly to him or her.
  • Relate your story or make your point. At the next logical point, scan the room again and stop on another person. Ten to twenty seconds is a natural rhythm.

This is what we do when we’re having a conversation with someone, so it feels natural to you while speaking and it’s a natural behavior for your audience.

The funny thing is that even the people you are not looking at directly will feel connected to you, too.

2. Favor your favorites

Is there one person in the audience who’s giving you the fish-eyed stare? Or worse, a disapproving frown? Do not focus on that person!

(Yes, you do want to periodically check the energy of the room, to see if your audience is “with you,” not busy texting Walking Dead recaps to their friends.”OMG, if they kill off Glenn, I am soooo done with this show!”)

Looking at the person who’s giving you the “I already know that” smirk will steal your mojo. Instead of focusing on giving value to the audience value, your mind will race, imagining all the critical comments the person is thinking. It shuts down the love parade.

Keep your energy strong and your audience engaged by focusing most of your attention on your fans – the people in the audience who are smiling and nodding with you.

Your fame boosting assignment:

This week, practice scanning and pausing when you’re speaking to a group. Whether you’re speaking publicly or leading a meeting, you’ll create a feeling of engagement and connection with the other people in the room. Keep that love parade marching on!

Want to jump start your public speaking? Start here.

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