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Avoid These Pitfalls in Presenting and Public Speaking

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By Patrick J. Donadio, MBA, CSP, MCC



My first paid speaking engagement was a disaster!  

First, I was so nervous that I forgot my opening. Next, I had memorized my speech, and halfway through, I lost my place. So, I ended up reading the rest of the speech from my notes. This caused me to have poor eye contact with the audience, which in turn made me even more nervous and flustered. It got so bad that I abruptly ended my talk and forgot to close the speech. What a nightmare! 

Since then, I have given over a thousand presentations and helped hundreds of people improve the way they present or communicate with staff, clients, customers and/or the general public. Based on my experiences and those of my coaching clients, I have compiled a list of common pitfalls and mistakes: 

Avoid trying to imitate someone else.  

Be your unique self! 


Don’t fail to project a sense of confidence.  

Don’t talk too fast or slow, too loud or soft. Don’t have poor eye contact or read word for word. Confidence is visual. Portray it through your voice, eye contact, mannerisms, gestures and body language. Act confident and you will become confident! 


Don’t speak down to the audience.  

Speak with the audience, not to them. Be careful of using jargon or technical terms or having a superior attitude. 


Don’t neglect to prepare enough supporting information.  

Many presenters fail not because they lack facts but because facts are all they have. Incorporate stories, human experiences, quotes and statistics to keep your audience’s interest. 


Remember a dynamic opening and closing.  

The first and last things you say are very important to the success of your presentation. Try the following: 

In openings avoid: 

  • An apology. The audience doesn’t know what your problems are, so why tell them? 

  • A slow start. Open with enthusiasm! 

  • An over-used cliché.

In closings avoid: 

  • An irrelevant joke used just for a laugh. 

  • Abrupt endings. For example, avoid saying, “Well, that is all I have to say,” to announce your close. 

  • Endings that are too long and drawn out. Plan your closing in advance so you conclude your presentation with polish. 

Don’t forget to rehearse. 

Work out the kinks before you present. Rehearse out loud! Otherwise, your presentation is the rehearsal. 


Avoid memorizing your speech word for word. 

It’s okay to memorize your opening, closing and quotes. Memorizing your whole presentation, though, could be trouble. George Jessel, the comedian and actor whose speaking skills earned him the honorary title “Toastmaster General of the United States,” famously joked, “The mind is a wonderful organ; it begins working the day you are born and doesn't stop until you get up to give a speech.”


Don’t forget to involve the audience.

Involve your audience mentally, physically and emotionally. If you don’t tune them in, they will tune you out. 


Avoiding these eight common pitfalls is the first step toward transitioning from a bland and boring speaker to a dynamic, engaging, and impactful communicator.

Register for Patrick Donadio’s next MAPS course: 

© Copyright 2022 – Patrick Donadio. Excerpts from his book, Communicating with IMPACT©    

Patrick Donadio, MBA, is a Certified Speaking Professional, Master Certified Coach and author of “Communicating with IMPACT.”  As a communication strategist for more than 20 years, he delivers custom, engaging keynotes, practical training and one-on-one coaching. He has taught and coached two generations of leaders and their teams to apply his IMPACT© process to communicate clearly, lead effectively, present powerfully, listen attentively and make a greater IMPACT on their bottom line.  

Connect with Patrick at 614-488-9164, email, or visit Patrick Donadio online.