I have observed in myself and others some common mistakes that guest speakers make. I shared these with Dr. Thom Rainer on a recent road trip, and he added some helpful input for good measure…and for fun. I’m curious what you think and hope you will jump into our discussion.
1. Awkward Introductions
If you begin your talk by asking, “How is everybody today?” – you should be embarrassed. If you ask it twice, hoping to get a more enthusiastic answer the second time, you should be tasered on sight.
Another overused, awkward lead-in is announcing how “excited” you are to be there. Good connections are both authentic and intentional.
2. Speaking Too Long
Assume that you are more interested in your topic than they are. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Speak within your allotted time and leave them wanting more. Time is a valuable commodity and your captive audience will resent you almost as much as your host will if you exceed your allotment of it. Speakers will often perceive permission to ignore the clock because a few “yes” faces seem to suggest they want more. Consider those faces to be desert mirages.
And don’t ask if they have any questions after your time is up. Ever.
3. Using Sloppy Slides
Some slides only look good on a laptop. If someone is helping you with graphics, have them see what they look like in a room and screen similar to where you will be using them.
Dr. Rainer advises against using too many points or slides because our minds can only absorb 3-4 points. Have someone else check your slides for errors in grammar, spelling, order, etc. Even the smallest error can be a huge distraction.
4. Skipping Sound Checks
Microphones matter, and not just for the obvious reason. Last week I watched one of the best speakers in the country hold his Lavaliere (lapel mic) like a “hand held” because he didn’t take the time to mic-up beforehand.
It is also hard to listen to someone when their mic keeps brushing across their clothing. You won’t have that problem with over-the-ear mics, but since they are adjustable, take the time to adjust them before you speak.
If you are adjusting your microphone during your talk, know that we are watching you, not listening to you.
5. Trying Too Hard to be Funny
You are not as funny as you think. Sorry, but nobody is. On the road, it is sometimes tempting to think that new ears will appreciate old humor. It is a risky proposition. My advice is to bury those old jokes, which are only evoking courtesy laughs anyway.
6. Fuzzy Transitions
If your primary points are important, slow down and change gears carefully. Go the extra mile by reinforcing them orally, as well as on screen and/or in print. Most of them didn’t get it the first time you said it. Our goal as preachers and teachers is not merely to “get through the lesson.” Speakers who connect give listeners time to absorb the content.
Dr. Rainer usually reviews his former points each time before introducing a new one. That is immensely helpful for attention deficit people – which you can assume is everybody.
7. Aborted Landings
Don’t promise to conclude, then keep rambling on. Once they hear you drop your landing gear, that sermon or speech better be near the runway. If you abort the landing, you will likely crash and burn.
On a related note, never ask your audience what time it is, or ask your host how much time you have left. If you do, it won’t matter because you are pretty much done anyway.
8. Leaving Your Phone On
The audience should have theirs turned off. So should you.
What are some of the common mistakes you have made or observed? Next week I will write a post about the most common hosting mistakes.