3 Public Speaking Pitfalls that Deflate Executive Presence

3 Public Speaking Pitfalls that Deflate Executive Presence


Did you know that one of the most important features of a movie actor is their voice? Actors are almost always great at public speaking. Watch iconic actors in classic movies. You’ll notice that they each have a remarkable vocal presence. Think Sidney Poitier, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, or Lauren Bacall.

Similarly, how you speak directly impacts your executive presence, just as how an actor speaks is such a big part of their stage or on-screen presence. After all, being a leader means you are on stage and in the spotlight – and if you do media appearances it also means you are literally on camera. Avoid these three pitfalls and it will help improve your public speaking immensely.

#1 Not Caring for Your Vocal Cords

I had the pleasure of working with the Roger Love, one of the world’s most renowned voice coaches. He taught me that if your throat muscles are tight they work against you to make your voice thin and squeaky.

When they are too tight your voice will even crack or you’ll open your mouth and won’t be able to produce a sound. Drinking warm water definitely helps, so always do that prior to getting up to make a presentation.

#2 Relying on Public Speaking Props

We’ve all experienced death by Power Point. But many leaders are still guilty of using props like slides and charts themselves, to compensate for a lack of speaking skills. But executive presence is all about direct, one-on-one connection with others. Dilute that interpersonal communication with lots of graphics and props and you will effectively dilute your leadership presence.

Prepare your presentation but practice delivering it without slides and other aids. If it cannot stand up on its own, then it is not a presentation worthy of your executive role. But if you can deliver a powerful presentation without visual aids, then feel free to add them in moderation to create additional dimensions of interest and information-sharing.

#3 Using Vocal “Fillers”

Filling the silence with murmurings like “umm” and “ohm,” makes you sound unsure of yourself, as if you are buying time to figure out what to say next. But silence gives your audience a chance to process what you just said and can make people listen closer, hanging on your every word.

At Toastmasters they actually count the number of fillers you use in your 2-minute talk. So try this at home. Record yourself and then replay it and count the “um’s.” You will start to see how weak they sound – versus the strength and captivating tension that strategic silence can add to a presentation. As you become aware of them, train yourself to silence them. When the urge to utter an “um” comes, squelch it.

You’ll feel the power immediately. Practice, and soon it will become a habit that is second nature. That’s when you know you’ve mastered one of the most fundamental skills of great public speaking.

Which of these three do you have the biggest problem with, and how can you apply these tips to your next presentation to achieve better results?


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2015, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS 1-800-267-3245, [email protected]

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