Failure to deliver ~ Public Speaking Fail

This blog post has been difficult for me to write. It has been mulling around in my mind since last week. I don’t take lightly negatively critiquing public speakers. It takes confidence and a leap of faith to be front and centre and I am a champion for everyone who makes the leap.

Here’s the but – When a speaker commits to the lectern they have a responsibility to deliver to the best of their ability and also to realize that every bum in a seat has invested time being there. Each attendee believes that a speaker will deliver insightful and valuable information.

Last week I attended a session where the sole reason for everyone in attendance was to listen to a speaker. It was a train wreck and I felt badly for the presenter. My heart went out to her. The start was shaky, the middle had no substance, and the end was disjointed.

The speaker has intimate knowledge of her subject and is well respected in our community. So what went wrong and how should you approach these problems?

  • She was very nervous and let her nervousness get the better of her. Remedy: Bring yourself to the present – feel your feet on the floor – don’t let your mind wonder ahead or in the past. Practice anchoring techniques to harness nervous energy and use them.
  • It was evident that little air was going into her lungs or out of them. Remedy: Breathe, simply breathe. When you feel your breathing becoming shallow stop and take a few deep breaths.
  • It was never clear what she wanted us to take away. Remedy: From the beginning of your content development build a clear key message. What do you want your audience to learn?
  • The content was adrift and touched on too many points. She included a few case studies that didn’t relate well to her content. Remedy: Ensure that you can always support your key message with information that compliments and builds on what you want your audience to take away.
  • Far too much information and she didn’t delve into her points deeply enough for true learning. Remedy: Cull your material until only salient information remains. Then dive in deep and explain thoroughly.
  • Only  the facts were presented. Remedy: Create stories around your supporting arguments that will grab your audience in their heart and minds.
  • “Well, I guess that’s all I have to say”. Yes, a sigh of relief from many could be heard. Remedy: Don’t let your endings drift off into the nether. Finish strongly with a call to action or tie your presentation up by looping it back to the beginning. Then stand quietly to let your audience know you are finished.

We all have our failures – I’ve had some embarrassing public speaking bombs but always realized it was my responsibility to improve and not waste people’s time. And I have learned and grown as a public speaker as is my hope for the lovely young women who put herself out there.


Do you want to learn how to polish your public speaking skills? Check out my bimonthly newsletter.

Image: Noel Zia Lee





I help build confident voices so they’re heard.

Janice Tomich is the founder of Calculated Presentations, a company dedicated to bringing out speaker’s stories to influence change. Janice coaches professionals, entrepreneurs, TED and TEDx speakers. She is a champion for equal representation by a diverse pool of presenters for all speaking events. Follow Janice on Twitter @janicetomich, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and subscribe for newsletter updates.

Be bold. Get heard. Inspire action.