The top 10 perils of public speaking…by a speaker

I adore public speaking.  I feel very privileged when asked to share my passion for my subject.  I enjoy hearing the insights and the worldly wisdom of others; I enjoy an audience’s company even though it may only be for a short time.

I am sure we have all read articles entitled ‘Top ten tips for public speaking.’  But there are often things that are out of your control as a speaker and could run smoother.  So, with that in mind, here is my list of the ‘Top ten perils of public speaking….’

It is meant fondly and with tongue-firmly-in-cheek. But there is an element of truth in them all…..

  1. Being asked to provide your presentation one week/month/year before the day itself. Yeah right!
  2. Water, water…….nowhere. Still amazes me how rarely speakers are provided with water.
  3. IT. Need I say more?
  4. Roving microphones. These are evil things, especially when passed around an uninitiated audience. Some conference organisers are clearly under the impression that this mainstay of large conferences has been designed to hover magically like an orb until called.  Fact is, roving mikes should be kept on a lead at all times by highly trained operatives who know how to work the ‘slidey thing’ at the bottom/side.
  5. Changing the allotted time for your talk. ‘You know we asked you to do a 20 minute presentation,’ they say, ‘well, could you make that five/20/60 minutes?’ (‘delete’ as necessary).  I say ‘they say’ but often they don’t say at all until the day itself.
  6. Perhaps I should have taken the hint when no one sent me directions to the venue………..
  7. The Chair…as the saying goes ‘who’s driving this thing?’
  8. Rooms with no clock on the wall! Very scary as a speaker if you don’t typically wear a watch. Like me.
  9. Was I really that dull/stunning that no one has any questions…
  10. White space. Conference organisers would do well to remember the designer’s maxim ‘Don’t be afraid of white space.’ Not every minute of a conference needs to be filled with a speaker.

And here’s a few that didn’t make it to the list…

  • ‘Cabaret seating.’  Much preferable to ‘theatre style.’  But I am always a bit disappointed that we don’t have a cabaret at the end.
  • I wonder whether we will ever break out of the plenary, workshops, plenary, workshops, closing session format for conferences. It’s the equivalent of 4-4-2 in football. Tried and tested but not always what you need.

Do please add your own.

One thought on “The top 10 perils of public speaking…by a speaker

  1. You do public speaking much more than I do. I think you’ve pretty much got all the main bases covered here. No other obvious ones come to mind.

    IT is a huge one. As an organiser as well as a speaker, I know this only too well…. No matter how much you plan, something with always go wrong.


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