Three Of The Biggest Mistakes Made When It Comes To Public Speaking

Richard Dean, the author of Crowdpleaser, gives a few tips on public speaking.

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Richard Dean is the author of Crowdpleaser: The 100 Greatest Public Speaking Tips of All Time, from Socrates to Steve Jobs. Published by Emerging Markets Leadership Press, Crowdpleaser brings together, for the first time, 100 classic tips, tricks and hacks on the art and science of public speaking. Excerpts from a Q&A with Dean:


From your perspective, why do you think it makes sense for people to brush up on their public speaking skills? For those of us who are not really keen on a keynote on stage, do you think they should still invest in this particular skillset?

In simple financial terms, you'll earn more money. Warren Buffet says MBA graduates are a US$1 million asset when they graduate. If they take a public speaking course, they're immediately a $1.5 million asset. Buffett is the world's third richest man, and he says the greatest investment he made wasn't stocks and shares, but a $100 Dale Carnegie public speaking course when he was 21. He used to feel physically sick before speaking, but the course fixed him. Of course, learning public speaking is about more than just money: promoting a worthy course, standing for public office, teaching– there are so many ways it can make a difference.

Given your experience in the media sector, what are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to public speaking?

1. They have a vague, wish-ywashy message. Most people have a vague idea of what they want to say, not razor sharp focus. To fix this, write your idea down in one -and only one- snappy sentence. "Today Apple reinvents the phone" was the five-word message that anchored every Steve Jobs said at the iPhone launch. You need your version. There are loads of templates to help you do this in the book.

2. Their back-up material is abstract and theoretical. To fix this, follow the advice of American media trainer Brad Phillips, who says your back-up material should fall into three categories: stories, statistics, and soundbites. Especially stories. Arm yourself with as many case studies and real-life examples as you can. Abstract concepts are tough to grasp, so give an example. That's why I quote a specific person -Brad Phillips- in this answer. That's why in my previous answer, I gave you the Steve Jobs example.

3. They tell you that 2+2=4. This is a crime you see repeatedly, not just in media interviews but in panel discussions, most of which are truly awful. Instead, have a bold, original point of view that someone could disagree with. "Update on the real estate market" is boring. "We must crack down on cowboy agents, or investors will abandon this real estate market" is bold, original and people can disagree with it. Who would you rather listen to?

If there's one thing you'd advise people to do when it comes to doing public speaking well, what would that be?

Use the proven hints, hacks and pro-tips of brilliant speakers and coaches. Ever since Aristotle published his book Rhetoric in the fourth century BCE, experts have been giving this advice away either free, or for the price of a paperback. Take it.

If I had to recommend one book on public speaking that people should buy right now (other than Crowdpleaser, or course!) it would be Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. Brilliant.

Related: Own The Stage: Writing A Killer Introduction By Answering A Question In Your Audience's Mind