READY, AIM, SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT: The 3 Biggest Speech Mistakes Leaders Make

Podium 2You have a big presentation to make to your people. You want to create enthusiasm for your upcoming goals, you want to encourage buy-in for the changes happening within your organization, and you want to give sagging morale a shot in the arm.  Big goals for one speech.

All the more reason to be mindful of EXACTLY what it is you want to accomplish with your talk.

In my Executive Speech Coaching Practice, I work with high-powered leaders who just need a little help aligning their desired intentions with their actual impact. 

Over the years working with these leaders, I have noticed a pattern.

Here are the 3 Biggest Mistakes I see leaders making when preparing an important speech:

#1: TMI: Too Much Information.  It is important to get very clear on what it is you want to accomplish with your speech. Is this an inspirational speech OR a technical presentation? Leaders mean well when they set out to share EVERYTHIING they know in one speech, however this is a sure-fire way to lose your audience.  The solution is to stick to communicating overall concepts and the reasoning behind them, and leave the minute detail for another forum. Don’t lose your audience in the details.

#2: Taking it Personal:  As a leader, your people want to know who you are as a person.  They want a peek behind the curtain to what drives you, what excites you, what you enjoy. Give them a peek.  Don’t be afraid to bring all of yourself to the podium.  In my coaching, I enjoy helping leaders find personal anecdotes that they can use to illustrate teaching lessons.  This is what great speakers do.  They create interesting detail and personal connection on their way to making their point.

#3: Word for Word:  A question I am constantly asked as a speaking coach is: “Do I have to memorize my speech?”  The short answer is Yes and No.  If you are crafting a story, then you should have it memorized.  If you are using humor to illicit a specific response, then yes, you should have it memorized.  However, I am not a proponent of memorizing your speech word for word.  I have seen speakers do this and it is not a good approach.  What happens when you get hung up on memorizing every word, is that you get hung up on memorizing every word. Don’t lose your connection with your audience by getting pre-occupied with committing your entire speech to memory.  A good rule is: Memorize your Opening and your Closing and any stories and humor points. Then outline your 3 main points, get comfortable with the overall flow of your talk, practice well and then go deliver with confidence.

If you are a leader with a BIG message, the intentional crafting and delivering of it deserves your love and attention.  Don’t try to wing it.

Karyn Ruth White is a nationally recognized Keynote Speaker, Award-Winning Humorist, TED Presenter and Public Speaking Coach. She works with leaders and speakers who want to connect and engage through a professionally crafted message. She delivers Funny Keynotes across the U.S., helping business to thrive and have fun doing it! She is the owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, an enterprise helping people to stress less and work happy.  Visit her at, on LinkedIn or on Twitter @karynruth. TED TALK "She Who Laughs, Lasts" with Karyn Ruth White