The unforgivable sin when making a speech

By Amy Beth Miller

I’ve been fortunate to hear a diverse group of well-known people deliver keynote addresses at the conventions and conferences I’ve attended. I’ve heard President Bill Clinton and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Erin Brockovich and Mister (Fred) Rogers, to name a few. Their speeches were interesting, informative, inspiring and memorable, at least for a while.

Years later, however, I can recall only one specific line in a speech. It was part of the introductory remarks by a longtime U.S. senator, who was speaking at a political dinner in his home state. The senator said “I could ramble on and on, perhaps I will …” And he did. That’s what made it so painful to listen to then and so memorable even after the senator passed away.

I don’t want to tarnish his reputation. I mention that speech only to make this point: If you know your faults as a public speaker, it is your responsibility to correct them.

If you tend to ramble, write and practice a well-focused presentation. Don’t wing it.

Instead of saying “You probably can’t see this” as you point to a sliver of a chart on your slide, redesign your graphics.

Don’t begin your speech by telling the audience where to find information if you don’t cover it all. If you tend to run long, time your rehearsals and enlist a timekeeper to keep you on track.

Don’t expect forgiveness for something that you can correct.

Become the best presenter you can be. Sign up today for American Speaker, your guide to successful speaking.

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