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The 7 Deadly Speaking Mistakes

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Oct. 5, 2014

When I was a young manager, a group of us decided we needed to polish our presentation skills. We were dis-satisfied with our career status, and knew that communications skills were fundamental.

We worked in a small facility and didn't have access to formal training, so we paired up and observed each other for 3 months.

It was a game changing exercise.

At that point in my career I was routinely presenting to hundreds of people, and I thought I was a strong speaker.


At my first presentation, my partner Elia noticed that I was rapidly waving my notes in a distracting manner. At my second presentation she pointed out a noticeable nervous sway when I stood in front of the room. The third, how I was hidden behind a podium. And so on.

3 embarrassing months later, I was a significantly better presenter and speaker.

Today I credit much of my speaking skills to this eye opening intervention.

It's not just what you say, it's how you say it.

According to Alison Griswold, author of 7 Speaking Mistakes that Professionals Make awareness of tone, pitch and volume is key to influencing how your colleagues perceive you.

Ms. Griswold consulted several experts on the most problematic mistakes and compiled the following list with advice on how to correct them.

The 7 Worst Speaking Mistakes Professionals Make

  1. Stuffed or repeated words and fillers, such as "Like" and "um."
  2. Speaking too quickly
  3. Speaking too quietly
  4. A gravelly or creaky voice
  5. Trailing off at the end of phrase
  6. Uptalk, or phrasing statements as queston
  7. Speaking in a monotone voice

Here are 2 simple steps to help you improve

  1. Use a partner or record your speaking. For many, the biggest barrier to improving is simply a lack of awareness. Have your partner identify the mistake, AND the circumstances surrounding them. You'll improve very quickly with instant feedback.

  2. Relax and take a breath. Nerves cause people to speak too rapidly, and their voices to squeak or trail off with uncertainty. It's amazing what some breathing exercises and a well timed pause will do to help you take command.

Speaking skills are critical

Speaking and presenting are overlooked skills that can be the make or break difference between "approved!" and "rejected."

It doesn't take much to identify and correct these mistakes, but the impact is significant.

Just do it

The best way is to learn is by doing. It may be a bit messy and a little embarrassing, but your career will thank you.

Grab the list, find a partner, speak!

7 Speaking Mistakes that Professionals Make was published on Inc.com in January 2014.

Image/Dom Liberati

Interested in more presentation skills? Take a look at these posts:

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