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Troubleshooting TED: How to Avoid Three Public Speaking Mistakes

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There’s no shortage of public speaking lessons to learn from TEDx Talks. Whether its general communication lessons gleaned from observing TEDx speakers or analysis of the presentation skills in a presenter’s TED Talk, TEDx is a gold mine of information for speakers and audiences alike.
Nevertheless, there is no shortage of stage snafus witnessed by TEDx speaker/coaches waiting in the wings and observing from behind the scenes. In fact, we’ve seen speakers undermine their authority and subject matter expertise so many times that we’ve force-ranked their bad habits. So, get motivated, strap in and learn how to spot these three TEDx public speaking blunders before your next presentation.
Let’s troubleshoot TEDx. Here are the top three speaking no-no’s and how to quickly fix them.

1. The Mistake: Distracting Movement

One of the biggest mistakes even the most experienced speakers make is using unfocused or wishy washy movement on stage. Repetitive movement, especially hand gestures, distract your audience and undermine your powerful message.

The Fix: Move with a Purpose

Like the speech itself, your body language should be purposeful and deliberate. A sweeping arm can be powerful amplifier of your ideas. Make sure you aren’t undermining your message by emphasizing the wrong words with your body or moving back and forth aimlessly on stage.

2. The Mistake: Filler Words

You can be the best speaker in the world, but if you rush, you will most definitely end up throwing in the dreaded filler word. Nothing cuts your reputation as a thought leader quicker than “um,” “uh” or “you know.” You have an idea that you’re passionate about and it’s easy to get overzealous when you’re in front of an audience . But every TEDx speaker coach groans backstage when they hear a speaker peppering an overly rushed talk with filler words.

The Fix: Pacing

So what’s the fix? Slow down. Develop a comfort level with a slower presentation pace. It might feel excruciating at first but rehearsing a more relaxed cadence will eliminate those filler words.
Pausing for understanding is another great technique to slow down. Silence is golden and can be used to emphasize your point. You deserve to be on stage. Convey that feeling to and audience with a well-placed pause.

3. The Mistake: A Podium-Shaped Crutch

A podium can be a death sentence for a speaker. Looming in the center of the stage, the podium is easy to lean on, hide behind and ultimately lose yourself.
Body language expert Amy Cuddy sheds light on the psychology of why we want to make our bodies small when we feel vulnerable. Unfortunately for speakers, unconsciously minimizing your size or hiding behind a podium sends signals to your audience that you lack confidence and authority.
Think back to man’s animalistic nature. People see a person shielding their bodies and know something is wrong. After all, open bodies signify just that: openness.

The Fix: Ditch the Podium

Every speaker coach understands that feeling of being naked in front of an audience. It’s nervy. We also know that the practicing your talk without a podium will make an empty stage feel like your second home. Eliminate the podium entirely and fully embrace your audience. Think of it as the kryptonite to your public speaking super power.
Next time you need to step on stage with confidence, remember these tips culled from the best…and worst…TEDx speakers and transform your ideas into action.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of


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