As a professional speaker I devote a lot of time to watching everyone I can who delivers presentations. I am not there to critique those on stage (I do not share my observations with those I am watching unless I am asked. Even then I am cautious), but I am looking at style and delivery methods from which I can learn to improve my own abilities.
Every time I am in the audience I consider myself at "Speaker University". Anyone, good or bad, is the professor, and I am the student.
I am understanding of the fact that most people who speak at business events are not professional speakers. While I spoke over 50 times last year, and have already delivered 30 talks in 2010, not everyone who addresses an audience has the same desire to make their living doing this as a career.
Most presenters are local executives and subject experts who have been asked to speak to share their knowledge or sought the opportunity to promote their business. Speaking is one of the best ways to expand your reputation and become more visible in your business community, and when done right you can have a positive impact on others.
Speaking can be a tool to raising your profile. But just because you are smart, or have accomplished something amazing, does not mean you are ready to deliver a meaningful presentation. Much as a couch potato would not get up and run a marathon, you should not assume because you took a freshman level speech class in 1984 that you are ready to take the stage at a business event.
Presentation Skills are just that.... skills. Thus they require time and effort to build up the experience to preform at the highest levels. When people are paying to see you speak, you need to respect their time and not "wing it" (heck, even when it is free you need to be respectful of your audience's desire to hear something meaningful).
I recently saw a business speaker at a major sponsored event who was awful. Most members of the audience were hoping for a fire alarm or other distraction to keep them from choosing to stick needles in their ears. He made nearly every mistake of a beginner, but he speaks regularly as a tool to promote his company.
He had a "verbal tick" in his over usage of the sound "ahhh" between sentences. I began counting at the ten minute mark and he crossed 30 "ahhh's" when I bored of making hash marks on my paper. About once a minute he said "ahhh". It was subtle, but annoying.
This speaker talked of his passion for his subject, but you never would have known it by his enthusiasm level. He was static, monotone and pretty boring. He never moved from one spot and his voice was so soft that he should have had a microphone.
The worst part was the hard close he made for people to hire him as a coach or to purchase his countless laundry list of other services. I am not critical of the concept of asking for the business, as that is important to anyone who has something to sell. Without asking people to buy, there would be no sales. But there is a fine line between letting people know what you have to offer, and making the whole presentation about the captive audience being made up of easy mark prospects. I felt cheapened by his self-centered attitude.
The rule to remember is that it is called "Giving A Speech", which means every time you are on stage the audience comes first. You "GIVE" to them. When the whole talk is a commercial for you, your company, or your products / services... then you have it backwards and nobody will remember you for what you knowledge you poses.
I find I like speakers who give me information and challenge me to take action. I want to buy their products when they touch my soul, not when they just try to touch my wallet.
Use speaking as a tool, just don't be A Tool!!!
Have A Great Day.