The next time that you are given an opportunity to create and deliver a speech, do me a favor and stop, put your pencil done before you start to write. I can just imagine what’s running through your mind: the magic words that will come spilling out of your mouth and will entertain and entrance your audience. Umm, unless of course they don’t. If you talk about the wrong things, then your speech will go nowhere quickly. Maybe we should have a chat about what you shouldn’t be talking about…
The Big Three
In every speaker’s life, hopefully there is someone who takes them aside early on and tells them the three topics that are absolutely off limits: race, religion, and sexuality. Yeah, yeah – if you are talking on one of these topics, then it’s ok, but if you’re not, then you need to stay far, far away.
The reason for this is because each of these topics are polarizing flash points that will instantly divide your audience. Some will agree with what you say, some won’t and you will have lost your audience.
Too Much Personal Info
As long as we are talking about things that you shouldn’t be talking about, let’s make sure that you know that sharing is good, but too much sharing is bad. I’m not even talking about the embarrassing personal stuff, instead I’m talking about the boring details of each of our lives.
I’m sure that we all have hobbies and personality quirks that we may find interesting or endearing. However, they aren’t. This is why you always want to test your speeches with friends who will be honest with you. If that personal story just isn’t doing it, then it needs to go away before you hurt an audience with it.
Personal Success Stories
So you saved a busload of schoolchildren from a pack of rampaging wild elephants. Yawn. Look, if you’ve done something impressive, that’s pretty cool. However, do you really think that you can tell me about it without coming across as someone who is bragging?
It takes a very careful skill for a speaker to share a story of personal success with an audience in the right way. You have to have a reason for telling the story. That reason has to have something to do with your audience. You had better be telling them how they can have the same type of success that you had or the story will just end up making your audience feel inadequate.
Any time that we have a speech to give that includes describing a sequence of events, such as a trip that we took, how something is manufactured, etc., we run the risk of delivering a book report that nobody wants to hear. You would be amazed at how many times I’ve had to sit though speeches that started out with “I’d now like to tell you about the 17 steps that we had to go through to solve this problem.”
Even if something took 17 steps to do, you don’t have to cover them all in your speech. Take some mercy on your audience and trim it down to two or three steps and tell them to talk to you to get more details if they want them. You must always think about how your speech is going to sound to your audience before you deliver it.
I like a visual aid just as much as the next speaker, but sometimes they can work against you. Depending on the size of your room, a visual aid can be either too big and overshadow you or too small and not visible to your audience.
Keep in mind that you are the star of your speech – nothing else is. This means that if you choose to use something else that will allow your audience to take their eyes off of you, then it had better be the right object for the right audience.
What All Of This Means For You
As speakers we like to focus on what we can include in our next speech. However, it might be just as important to spend some time worrying about what we should not be putting into that speech.
The obvious topics that shouldn’t be included include race, religion, and sexuality. However, boring personal habits, overblown success stories, book reports, and poorly selected visual aids can also bring your next speech down.
The key to avoiding including things that will take away from your message is to put yourself in the place of your audience. If you can create a speech that has only good content and no bad content, then you will have created a speech that everyone is going to want to hear.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills
Question For You: Did I leave anything off of my list? What other topics should a speaker never include in their speech?