At Toastmasters we make a big deal of counting every filler word uttered by a speaker during their prepared speeches and uttered during impromptu speaking. The Darth Vader of the Ah Counting universe, and we have a few of them in my club, even catch the “ahs”, “ums”, “you knows”, “so”, “you see”, and other filler words uttered during every speaking moment. The Darth Vaders take their job very serious and take pride of reporting every lapse to the speaker when giving their role report at the end of the meeting. Regardless of what our beloved Darth Vaders would have you think, an occasional filler word will not destine your presentation to failure. A speaker with good content, content that is important to and useful for his or her audience will earn the audience’s forgiveness when an occasional filler word slips from between the speaker’s lips. There will be no forgiveness for the speaker who commits one or more of the 7 Deadly Sins and get caught in the act. Your presentation will be doomed to fail and you, the presenter, to disgrace.
Everyone knows what the Biblical 7 Deadly Sins are, they were drummed into our heads during those seemingly endless Sunday School classes;
but how do the Biblical 7 Deadly Sin relate to the world of public speaking?
The First Deadly Sin: Sloth.
A speaker commits the unpardonable sin of Sloth when he or she fails to prepare properly for his or her presentation. Sloth is another word for laziness. Speaking in public, whether formally or informally, is an activity essential to our success in business, in life itself, yet many people never put forth the effort needed to master it.
People join Toastmasters because they see the need to improve their communication skills. They achieve that goal in a setting where everyone wants to see them succeed, a safe environment. Sadly, because it is a safe environment where their speeches are evaluated to motivate, they are never under pressure to become all that they could be. Many Toastmasters are guilty of Sloth because they never prepare for their speeches until the eleventh hour and depend on their ability to speak extemporaneously to get them through their 5 to 7 minute presentation. The Competent Communication Manual, the manual containing the first ten speech projects that every Toastmaster must complete to reach his or her first level of competency, is a veritable communications textbook, with a wealth of invaluable information on speech making, but far too many Toastmasters never really study that material. Far too many Toastmasters simply rush from one project to the next on their way to getting their Competent Communicator Certificate. They are guilty of Sloth because they do not put forth the effort to master each project before moving on to the next project.
The Second Deadly Sin: Envy.
As public speakers we are guilty of this unpardonable sin when we express the belief that truly great speaker got to where they are because of luck or because they were born with the gift of gab. Those guilty of envy believe that great speakers are natural born speakers. Speakers who are guilty of the Deadly sin of Envy are likely to commit other sins because of it.
They commit the sin and crime of vulgarism. They steal the stories and anecdotes of other speakers and claim them to be their own.
They steal other speaker’s Power Point presentations and tell everyone that they created them.
They copy the speaking styles of successful speakers, never putting forth the effort to find their own voice.
These speakers doom themselves to failure because they know that they are phonies. This self awareness leads to their lack of self-confidence and promotes their nervousness in every speaking situation. They are their own worse enemy.
Beginning with the Second Deadly Sin, a chain reaction sets in, each deadly sin leading into the commission of the next deadly sin. Envy leads directly into Lust.
The Third Deadly Sin: Lust.
Picture your audience naked. I cringe every time I hear someone tell a new speaker that. It is common advice. It is also the worse advice anyone could give a speaker. The theory behind it is picturing an audience naked makes them appear just as vulnerable as the speaker feels. Picturing an audience naked might help feed the speaker’s erotic fantasies, but it will not help them become better speakers. Picturing you audience naked is falling prey to the unpardonable sin of Lust. Picturing your audience naked can lead to other distractions that make speaking even more difficult. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine what those additional distractions might be since I want to keep this post G-Rated.
The Fourth Deadly Sin: Gluttony.
The unpardonable sin of gluttony is committed by speakers who believe that more is always better. More Power Point Slides, more numbered or bulleted lists, more graphs, more words on every slide, more detailed examples, more of everything. The speakers who have fallen prey to the unpardonable sin of Sloth are especially susceptible to the Deadly Sin of Gluttony because they allow their visual aids to take the place of a presentation. Gluttony leads the speaker down the path to Greed.
The Fifth Deadly Sin: Greed.
The unpardonable sin of greed is the sin of excess. Speakers commit this deadly sin when they go over the time limits of their presentation. Going over the time allowed for your speech is a violation of the unwritten contract that you have signed with your audience. The members of your audience are busy people and they have penciled in a certain amount of time to hear your presentation, to exceed that amount of time means that you are interfering with their next scheduled meeting or task, and that is never good for you or for them. On the other hand, they will appreciate it if you finish a couple of minutes early because that will give them a minute or two to relax between appointments. However never finish too early or the audience will fell cheated. If you are scheduled to speak for 30 minutes and finish in 27, that’s great; finish a 30 minute speech in 20 minutes and the audience will feel cheated especially if they paid good money to hear what you had to say.
The Sixth Deadly Sin: Wrath.
Commit this unpardonable sin and the wrath of God will descend upon you and your presentation. A speaker commits this Deadly Sin when he or she handles problems that may arise during a presentation in an inappropriate or otherwise bad manner. It does not matter how bad a presentation is going; it does not matter whose fault that may be, surrendering to the provocation and becoming angry is counterproductive. Getting angry—whether at yourself, at someone in the audience, or at some other factor that affects you speech—is the worse possible thing that you can do during a presentation. Anger displayed by you makes your audience uncomfortable. Your anger destroys your credibility in the eyes of your audience.
So why do speakers succumb so easily to these first six Deadly Sins? The answer to that question lies within the deadliest Deadly Sin of them all, the Seventh. The Seventh Deadly Sin is the progenitor of all the other unpardonable, Deadly Sins.
The Seventh Deadly Sin: Pride.
Speakers fall prey to this unpardonable sin when then succumb to the thinking that being a public speaker is all about them. They are too full of self. They think that they really are “all that.” As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall (KJV).
Now Hear This: Public Speaking is Never
all about you
about the lavish praised the MC may bestow upon you during your introduction
about your razor sharp delivery
about your lavish, elaborate Power Point slides
public speaking is always all about your audience and the message that you have for them.