OK, so your speech has been written and rehearsed. You know the demographic of the audience, you’ve studied their interests and understand their expectations. You have performed your voice warm-up exercises and have made sure that a glass of water has been placed within your reach and you are ready to deliver your presentation.
Surely nothing could go wrong? Your delivery is smooth and engaging yet the audience seems to be quite distracted.
It could only be – your irritating mannerisms.
But it can’t be! You don’t have any annoying mannerisms – do you?
It’s a sad fact that many speakers are completely unaware of small but annoying mannerisms that will spoil their carefully prepared speeches. Nothing will distract an audiences’ attention more effectively than the sight of a speaker constantly repeating an irritating action – a habit that will cause your words to be lost and your speech to be ruined.
Are you guilty of any of the following habits? Be truthful with yourself or, if that proves to be too difficult, ask a trusted friend to honestly lay bare your most irritating habits.
1. Are you a Leaner and Swayer? Speakers who continually shift their weight from one foot to the other, swaying first one way, then another will certainly make their audience feel truly giddy. Others will show a preference to rock forward and backwards from heel to toe as they deliver their speech. Of course, the speaker is oblivious to these movements but the audience certainly won’t be! Make an effort to become aware of your balance when speaking and work towards remaining still and upright.
2. Are you a Scratcher or Ear Puller? Perhaps on a sub-conscious level it may be comforting for a speaker to continually be touching or scratching their head and it may even help to calm taut nerves somewhat. It may be that some speakers believe that such actions convey the impression that they are giving deep consideration to their subject but unfortunately they are almost always wrong. Instead, always remember, scratching is catching and before long you’ll have the whole audience scratching too!
3. Are You an N.B. & C.? This is an abbreviation for a Nose Blower and Cougher. Speakers with these mannerisms appear to be suffering from a heavy cold but in reality their frequent clearing of the throat and wiping of the nose is merely a nervous habit they have developed. This is most irritating to the audience and most frightening to any hypochondriac who may be sitting in the front row!
If you can recognise yourself in this category, train yourself to take a sip of water whenever you feel the need to clear your throat and break yourself of this irritating mannerism.
We all display little mannerisms and in any other walk of life they won’t usually matter at all. However, if you are speaking publically in front of an audience, your mannerisms – or lack of them – could make the difference between being remembered as a particularly accomplished public speaker, or a very annoying one.
Which one would you prefer to be?
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