5 Mistakes to Avoid When Speaking in Public


You sweating yet?

In most PR agencies, flacks have one fear coursing through their bodies that forces them to consider wetting their pants just to relieve some stress — public speaking. You would think in this industry those are fears you leave at the door or reconsider your career choice, but there it is.

The public relations pros that have this issue — glossophobia, to those diagnosed and on medication — love pitching because they can hide behind a phone, or even better, an anonymous IP address and email. However, if those same folks are on the pitch team, they freak.

So, if you are among those whose knees are knocking, palms are sweating, and throats are cracking reading this post, don’t fret. Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when caught in front of a crowd of possible clients.

reading-for-dummies-b1. Do not read word for word. Why? You lose eye contact. That alone is bad enough, but consider when you are nervous — you read … slower … than … usual … and … sound … like … an … idiot. Be prepared and don’t rely on “Aw shucks-ing” it, but do not read your pitch. You become a complete bore and will probably jeopardize the pitch. Learn what an organic setting means — roll with it. Listen to the prospective client. If he or she throws up a joke, don’t be afraid to catch it and get off topic. Be yourself. You would be shocked how much that helps when you pitch.

interrupt2. Do not step all over the other people in the room. Ever been in a meeting when someone is talking and some schmuck just has to get in that one point. So, an interruption here, an interjection there, and then when they can’t get a word in edgewise, the tap dance begins. It’s uncomfortable, unprofessional, and so unkind to the ear. I have always believed that if you feel like you have to interrupt someone to make your point, it’s not worth making. Besides, people listen better when there is silence just before you drop your knowledge bomb.

quiet sign3. Do not speak too loudly or quietly. You know you have one of these in your agency. That one guy who gets his coffee in the morning and ends up sounding like Chopper Dave stuck in the skies. You know? WAY UP THERE! And then there’s that other guy or gal who was a librarian in a past life. Those are not the people you want to be in the pitch meeting because while they may be tolerable sitting across the table at lunch, they suck out loud (or in quiet) in a pitch meeting. Don’t be them, okay?

monsieur-jargon4. Do not use jargon. It’s no secret at all that yours truly team at PR Newser detests jargon, buzzwords, or phrases that don’t mean what you think they mean. As much as “moving the needle” and plucking that “low-hanging fruit” makes you feel like the superhero of the PR universe, you sound stupid. Sure, the boss does it with fluidity but that’s because corner offices come with those dictionaries. You are better than that. Abstain from douchebaggery. You’ll be a better person for it.

download5. Do not forget to have fun. It’s amazing how a little levity tends to make things easier. Ever heard of an icebreaker? Well, what if that block of ice got pantsed in the meeting? You would be a drooling, laughing mess. Humor is more than that — it connects you with the people in the room. Understand, you are not hosting a late night talk show, but a little crack of a smile wouldn’t kill you. Those “why so serious” people in PR firms give us a bad name. Make your own name and have a little fun.