We all make mistakes, but speakers who make a point of learning from their mistakes report that their successive, follow-up efforts are particularly effective.
From interviewing successful speakers, I have discovered what high achievers consider these mistakes to be. The errors they say they'll never make again include:
1. Feeling terrified before speaking in front of groups
When facing stress, we have two options: feel scared to death, or else excited, at the opportunity to share our message with the world. Successful speakers choose to turn their nervousness into excitement. They focus on transforming lives and making a big impact.
2. Joining Toastmasters
Successful speakers don’t go to Toastmasters, because the organization's forced-to-clap environment is unrealistic. Successful speakers practice public speaking in front of live audiences that provide constructive feedback. The realistic environment helps them grow and succeed faster.
3. Having a voice that shakes
Celebrity voice coach Roger Love says, “People judge you in the first 15 seconds while you’re speaking.” Having a powerful voice makes a big difference. Breathe in through your nose, fill your tummy as if the air is going in there, and then speak only while your stomach is expelling air.
4. Avoiding humor
Once you "get" the fact that humor makes your presentations more interesting -- and, yes, funny -- you will see the world that way and light up your audience.
5. Practicing in front of a mirror
Practicing the wrong habits again and again makes you a failure. Successful speakers understand that “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice with feedback makes great improvement.” Instead of using a mirror, they seek out direct evaluation from experts and coaches.
6. Picturing audience members "in their underwear"
This stupid analogy makes you more uncomfortable than comfortable. Instead, a better way to picture your audience is to imagine you are talking to your friends in your living room, and that their feedback is, “You’re amazing!” That way, you feel comfortable, calm and confident.
7. Worrying about what to say during the Q&A
The best way to answer questions is to predict them beforehand. Brainstorm possible questions you may get in the next talk. Practice answering these questions so you will feel more confident and natural.
8. Designing PowerPoint slides that are dry, boring and predictable
Going directly to PowerPoint forces you to think in a linear way; storyboarding shows you a bigger picture. Sketch your ideas with sticky notes. Find powerful images that express your ideas visually. Create visual slides on your favorite software. Remember that you too can design effective presentation slides, just like Steve Jobs.
9. Starting your remarks with “Good morning, everyone. Today I will talk about. . . ”
B-O-R-I-N-G. Do you want to lose your audience? Successful speakers grab and keep the audience’s attention by asking a powerful question or telling a personal story.
10. Stopping efforts to improve your public speaking skills
If you are not learning, you are dying. No matter how good any of us are as speakers, we need to keep improving public speaking. So, learn from other successful speakers, attend seminars, and watch the best TED talks.
Finally, realize that the following is true: Most speakers fail because they are repeating the same mistakes. Every speaker makes mistakes. . . including the most successful. But, high achievers learn from mistakes -- both their own and others'.
Avoid making these 10 mistakes again so you too can become a successful speaker.