Many mistakes in public speaking are distracting to the audience: not making eye contact, talking too fast, shuffling your feet… such habits make it difficult for people to take in and remember what you’re saying. But these offences pale into insignificance beside insincerity.
On a train to London the other day I was reminded of this by a message over the tannoy, informing us that we would be arriving at our destination twenty minutes behind schedule, due to a speed restriction in the Milton Keynes area. Customers were advised to take all their personal belongings with them on their onward journey and, on behalf of himself and his colleagues, he apologised for any inconvenience caused by the late arrival of this service? His tone betrayed the fact that he was speaking from a script, while the upward inflection at the end clearly demonstrated his total inability to care less whether the delay had caused us problems or not.
Talking by rote has become something of a blight on our society and, as public speakers, we need to be careful never to fall into delivering like automata. Worse than being bored by an unengaging speaker, worse than feeling awkward in the presence of a nervous speaker, the audience of an insincere speaker may actually feel insulted.
Whether you’re giving this speech or presentation for the first time or for the hundredth, whether you’re of the crowd or need to maintain a professional distance, I implore you: think about what you’re saying and deliver your message as if you mean it!