Overcoming common speaking mistakes

In the previous blog article I introduced the concept of speech bumps - mistakes or habits that adversely affect the effectiveness of our speaking.

We also discussed that these occur during conversations,  discussions and meetings and can have a negative effect on our communication.

in this blog I will discuss the next three speech bumps.

As before, I have added another two quick-reference exercises for you at the end of the article.

Overcoming common speaking mistakes

Just as speed bumps slow down traffic, as public speakers we also sometimes tend to have “bumps” along the way –those unmindful mistakes or habits that adversely affect the effectiveness of our speaking.

Speech bumps is a term I use to refer to common mistakes we make when we speak to an audience. Of course, speech bumps can also occur during everyday conversations and discussions around the boardroom table.

Some speech bumps happen because of the way we use our voices and speaking organs, and others have to do with the way we breathe and manage our breath.

Fortunately, there are exercises you do can do that will address these.

I will discuss the first three of the speech bumps in this blog and the last three in the next blog.

I have added two quick-reference exercises for you at the end of the article.

Writing and speaking –some interesting similarities

Author of the well-known book Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell, has a few interesting things to say about the art of writing. When I read them, I was struck by how much of this is also applicable to public speaking. For example he scorns that writers often simply “put down a mass of words which obscure the real meaning” (1949, pg. vi).  How often do we have to listen to speakers who do just that?

He gives a few rules for effective writing which are equally applicable for public speaking. Have a look:

“Never use a long word where a short one will do

If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out

Never use the passive (I was knocked down by a car) where you can use the active (a car knocked me down)

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an English equivalent”(Orwell, 1949, pg. vi).

As public speakers we are well advised to apply these rules as well –it will be easier to listen to us and, what’s more, people will enjoy listening to what we have to say.

Check out the chapter on effective language use in my book Public Speaking From Preparation to Presentation on amazon.com

Image: © Coffee 260884-1920

Are you stressed or are you centered?

Have you been in stressful situations lately? Stressful situations have the uncomfortable habit of leaving me out of balance and breathless.   And when I’m out of breath, I can’t speak nor think properly.

Not good for meeting clients or speaking well! 

Here’s an exercise to help get back your energy and breath. You can then work from a place of inner balance and control. You can do this exercise while you wait in the cue at the bank or in a shop, or when you travel, just before an important appointment, or a potentially stressful meeting … 

  • Stand or sit, feet parallel, hip bone width apart
  • Rest the feet on the floor, soles soften
  • Relax the ankles, knee and hip joints
  • Lengthen the neck and spine, let the shoulder blades drop
  • Place your hands on your navel
  • Gently, but deeply, breathe in and out
  • Do this for 1 minute


Image: © Andre Hunter 168807 unsplash