“Fair or not, people make assumptions about your intelligence and education simply by the words you use.” This line was made popular by Verbal Advantage, a company who produces audio vocabulary and communication improvement programs in its advertising. As a teacher of public speaking and communications, I would take this line even further and say that people make those same assumptions based on not only your word choice, but also how you deliver or present the words you choose.
One of the first questions I ask my students who take my public speaking classes is “What is public speaking?,” and I receive all sorts of obvious answers except one…… That is every time we open our mouths, we are public speaking. This includes talking on the telephone or having a one-on-one conversation with a friend or colleague. Over the life of the course I share many strategies and techniques to help my students become proficient and unafraid to present their thoughts and ideas in a manner that would leave their audience regardless of size assuming that he or she was indeed intelligent and educated.
In addition to teaching public speaking, I am also a radio talk show host and had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of Black Speakers Network, Mr. Brian J. Olds. During our conversation I shared with him concepts that I had learned and share with my students in my course. The concepts in and of themselves are not new, however, are defined in a very common sense way. While I wish I could take credit for creating them, I cannot and I have no problem with giving the proper credit where it is due. They are taken from one of the books that I use as a reference in my courses titled LIFETIME CONVERSATION GUIDE: The Key to Success with People by James K. Van Fleet. I share the Seven Distracting Mannerisms and Seven Important Don’ts to Remember with you here in this blog post and encourage you to learn what not to do and stay away from when you are delivering a speech. Learning what not to do is just as important as learning what to do.
Seven Distracting Mannerisms
1. The Dying Warrior. In this position, the speaker leans heavily on the lectern. He wears an air of total exhaustion and never moves. All he needs to complete this picture is a feather drooping down over his forehead from an Indian headband.
2. The Fig Leaf is favored by the speaker who has no lectern to lean on. He stands solidly with both hands clasped in front below the waist, feet 18 inches apart and completely immovable, his body solid as a rock.
3. The Walkie-Talkie is a descriptive term in itself. This one is the pacer who never holds still for a single moment. Most "walkie talkies" seem to be would-be lawyers who imagine themselves pacing back and forth in front of the jury.
4. The Chained Elephant stands with his weight first on one foot, then on the other. He goes nowhere, but constantly moves his feet in position, shuffling back and forth.
5. The Change Counter constantly counts the money in his pocket. Soon the audience hears only the jingle of coins rather than what he's saying.
6. The Swordsman works with a pointer and a chart. He has the bad habit of fighting imaginary duels with his pointer as if he were holding a sword.
7. The Baton Twirler also uses a chart and a pointer, but he is more advanced in his techniques than the"swordsman." He uses his pointer as if he were entertaining the crowd at half time.
Seven Important Don'ts to Remember
1. Don't bluff. Never bluff to cover up a lack of knowledge. If you don't know the answer, say so. Then find the answer and let the person know as soon as you can.
2. Don't use profanity or obscenities. Not even a tiny "Damn!" or "Hell" is ever permissible. The moment you use profanity, you run the risk of losing the respect and attention of some of your listeners.
3. Don't use sarcasm or ridicule. This is especially true if you have a captive audience. Your listeners will resent it if they can't respond in the same sarcastic manner. If a person resents you, he won't listen to you.
4. Don't talk down to your listeners. You might be smarter than your listeners, but only in one subject, and you selected that one. Never treat your listeners as ignorant people if you want them to keep listening to you.
5. Don't lose your patience. If a listener asks you to cover a point again, don't get upset. His inability to understand might be your failure to explain it properly. Repeat the information or use a different approach to make your point clear to him.
6. Don't hide behind the lectern. You must be clearly visible to the audience. If the lectern doesn't show you at least from the waist up, be brave and step out to the side.
7. Don't make excuses. Don't start off by saying, "Ill-prepared as I am....I didn't have a chance to go over this material.....I'm not really qualified to speak on this..... I wouldn't be here, but..." I've heard these comments and so have you. You were turned off immediately, right? Well, if you use them, your listeners will be turned off too. Never apologize or make excuses. Only amateurs do that; professionals never do. Be a pro.
Marc Medley, Host The Reading Circle at Book Talk Radio