Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Public Speaking Mistakes: Are You Caught in the Show-Off Trap?


Awww! You are sooooo cute! Your gestures, your voice, your vast vocabulary! Your Power Point was beautiful, your music inspiring, and you were dressed to the nines! And oh, your adorable little dimples!

Have you ever watched this speaker? Have you ever been this speaker (taffeta optional)?

It can be too easy to fall into the traps of ego and pride as a speaker. After all, the audience is there to see us! We're on stage and we're the star. We spend our day after week after month after year to be our best for the comparatively few minutes we spend on stage. When we're done, we want that audience to recognize how good we are - standing ovations, top scores on evaluation sheets, and plenty of handshakes and smiles afterwards.

Welcome to the Show-Off Trap. The trap is always just a few steps away from you. Many of us started as speakers from this trap in the first place, others fall into it after reaching more success than they expected. Still more of us fall in and out of it again and again, each time thinking we've finally moved past it.

The worst thing about the Show-Off Trap is its often wrapped in success, and we can miss the stranglehold it has on us until it has done irreparable harm to our careers.

Signs you are caught in the Show-Off Trap:

Speaking Gymnastics - Verbal & Physical

Verbal - all those hours on Thesaurus.com may be misleading you. When the audience gets lost in your words, in complicated sentence constructs, or in adjective-laden, abstract metaphors, you're showing off. Speaking is not about how smart you are, but how smart you can make your audience.

Physical - boy, do you know how to use the stage. Dancing, falling, running, pacing, tumbling, jumping on chairs, backflips, even landing on stage by parachute. If it means something to your audience, if it proves a point, its worth doing. If its just to show you CAN, its showing off.

Lack of Eye Contact - are you pacing the stage? Spending your time talking to the walls? Talking to yourself? It's one thing to be afraid of making eye contact. Its another to be so involved in your own words that you never have reason to look at them in the first place.

I-Focused Stories - yes, we want to tell OUR story, but it must be our story as it will relate to THEM. If the story stays focused on you and your life, your struggles and your triumphs, but never gets around to relating to your audience, you're showing off.

One Size Fits All - yes, its okay to give the same speech to more than one audience. Speakers do it all the time. But when the speech is the exact same from audience to audience, with ZERO customization, ZERO consideration for the individuality of the client, you're speaking for you, not for them.

One & Done - you got your standing ovation, and your great responses on your feedback sheets. But you didn't get invited back. By them, by their other offices, their other chapters, or by anyone in the audience. Rarely will someone tell you you were showing off to your face - but if you're One & Done, you might have been. (The alternative, of course, is that you were simply bad, but lets not go there today.)

You say you want to be great. To be memorable. To change lives. Be careful, you're just inches away from stepping into the Show-Off Trap. No matter how many people come up to you to say how great you are, what you really want is different. You want your message to help them see the greatness in themselves. A message that is memorable. A message that when acted upon by THEM, changes their lives. The difference is subtle, but will make the difference in your career, nonetheless.

Be great - but be great in what you give, be great for THEM, not for YOU. Don't chase the wrong Tiara :)

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