Why do so many speakers insist on using their audience as a form of group therapy for their own personal issues? I’ve seen speakers (including those that were paid to give their talk) use their presentation (I don’t dare call it training) to enact revenge, guilt the audience into cheering for them and to get things off their chests. Why?
Giving a speech is not about you — it’s about the audience. Someone has invited you to share your knowledge, wisdom or experience to their audience. They’re not interested in hearing about the guy that flipped you off in traffic, the cab driver that ran four lights on your trip from the airport or something idiotic that your Senator did (unless that’s the purpose of your speech).
Now, these topics are fine for a Toastmasters meeting — it’s what makes these types of meeting enjoyable. But when you’re in front of a live audience that is sacrificing their time (and maybe money), you need to kick it up a notch. Here are a few things to avoid:
- Stories that have no relevance to the theme of your talk.
- Jokes that are unrelated to your topic or to a common bond that audience members have.
- Anything that’s considered bragging (save it for your introduction).
- Mentioning of products such as books, audio programs or other seminars unless asked about them by an audience member or unless there’s a relevant point in mentioning them that relates to your speech.
- Requiring your audience to cheer or clap for you.
In other words, if it’s something that requires a lot of effort to work into your talk, forget it. By simply staying focused on the purpose of your talk, you’ll be more successful as a speaker, connect better with your audience and asked more frequently to return as a presenter.