Bad speaking habits of senior leaders

MicrophoneCommunications professionals are often responsible for coaching and advising senior leaders on speech and presentation issues.

That entails studying their performance and later providing recommendations aimed to help them improve.

I have compiled a list of 10 bad habits that leaders just don’t want to seem to let go…

1. “Apologies in advance for this slide – you probably can’t read it” –

When the leader says this, it usually means there’s too much content on the slide, and the text is too small. If you know in advance that people can’t read it then don’t use it. If you didn’t know in advance, why didn’t you?

2. Providing strategic context by using graphs –

Using graphs to provide strategic context, for example at the beginning of a presentation, is fine for scene setting but is visually tedious. At the start of your talk you want to seize people’s attention, not send them to sleep.

3. Using audience participation techniques at conference  without considering your learning or communication goals –

Asking people at conference to perform practical exercises, but without clear outcomes in mind, reduces the activities to gimmicks and lessens overall impact.

4.  Displaying surprise at your own slides –

I have seen senior leaders declare mid-flow that they’ve never seen the slides they are currently presenting, while others skip backwards and forwards between slides. Others skip whole sections. This signals they haven’t prepared and undermines the credibility of their message.

5. Excessive ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ –

Some leaders excessively ‘um’ and ‘er’ while they struggle to find the correct words. Over-use of these filler words distracts the audience and makes them appear unsure and uncertain.

6. Jumping from one slide to the next without a transition –

The speaker finishes a section of their presentation, and then flicks up the next slide, but without a clear link to the previous one. This is disjointed and weakens their persuasiveness.

7. Referring to the slides as the presentation –

Slides are not the presentation, or speech – they are just slides. The speaker is always the speech or presentation – not the slides.

8. Tired and clichéd techniques used during introductions –

Executives have learned that a bit of personal revelation is useful to get the audience on your side. But we don’t want to know what you looked like as a baby – that’s just cringe making.

9. Not bringing hard copies of slides or notes as a backup –

If the speaker doesn’t bring hard copies of slides or notes, then when the technology fails (as it inevitably does) you have a problem. Leaders tend to stand around, embarrassed, while someone tries to fix the I.T. It need not be like this if you have a hard copy of the notes.

10. Reading off the slide –

This is the worst of all and it’s staggering how many people still do this. If the executive is just going to read the slides word-for-word from slides or a script, then why not just pop all that on an email, and save everyone the bother of attending.

And if you’re interested in how to become a trusted advisor while coaching senior leaders in speaking skills

(Photo: Alex Indigo)

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