Presentations don’t happen in a perfectly controlled environment. An audience member gets into a coughing fit. A baby starts to wail. A phone goes off, and a trail of conversations from afar can be heard. Each distraction comes with a perfectly choreographed moment of silence. And each second lost to distraction is a second gone to waste.
Some of the scenarios above do happen, but there is a preventable kind of distraction that often goes unnoticed. The unexpected sources of distraction are none other than the speakers themselves.
1. Rambling as the Last Resort
The most obvious sign of rambling comes from unprepared speakers. Unprepared speakers struggle to deliver the message of their presentation. Their speech slows down, uh’s and um’s dot their speech patterns, and they disrupt themselves. There aren’t enough tips to help out unprepared speakers.
Core topics can’t be made up on the spot and there are a few options available to save the presentation and the speaker. Damage control needs to be done. Rambling only worsens an ill-prepared presentation. So stay on topic as much as possible. Relax for a few seconds and don’t show any more signs of panic.
When you’re in a state of anxiety, simply pause and take a breath.
2. Rambling Creates a Wall
A prepared, but anxious speaker shows the same signs of nervousness as the unprepared speaker. Take the same steps to calm down and relax. There’s no need to be nervous if the deck is crafted carefully and communicates clearly.
Rambling as a result of anxiety can be avoided by reframing a nerve-wracking experience in a positive light. So instead of fearing judgement from the audience, think of the positive reaction you’ll gain. And instead of worrying about the presentation, be proud from its inception to its completion.
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3. Rambling as the Unintended Effect
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the overly prepared speaker. You might exhaust all talking points and start talking about something completely unrelated. Eventually, you could have gone too far ahead to get back to your original point. As a result, you might ramble some more, creating a vicious cycle.
An unprepared speaker fills the air with silence while an overzealous one fills the air with too much information. According to career consultant, Lea McLeod, you should learn how to regulate rapid speech by having a measured pace. The average person talks at a rate of about 125-175 words per minute while we can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute.
Also consider the amount of attention and focus listening requires. Then factor in the other thoughts that could be distracting the audience. Combined, those 450 words that we can supposedly process can end up much less in reality. Control your pace and stay focused on your topic by slowing down.
Which one are you among the three? All these candidates can take steps to minimize winding along in their presentations. Preparation is the most important step in creating a deck. Confidence is the most important factor in delivering a speech.
For the benefit of the audience, don’t speak too fast or too slow, and remember to relax and just breathe.
McLeod, Lea. “3 Smart Ways to Keep Yourself from Rambling.” 3 Smart Ways to Keep Yourself from Rambling. Accessed October 5, 2015. www.themuse.com
“Speech Rate – Is Your Speaking Rate Too Fast, Too Slow, or Just Right?” Write Out Loud. Accessed October 5, 2015. www.write-out-loud.com
Featured Image: “SD Zoo” by Stephen Kruso from flickr.com