presenter with hand in pocket

One of the greatest concerns in the world of public speaking and presenting is bad habits. In fact, it is within the top 3 requests we hear from delegates on every one of presentation training workshops.

‘How can I remove bad habits that affect my presentation?’

Before we explain why we believe it’s a phenomenon and share the answer to the question let’s look at the top 10 bad habits we hear every day.

Reading notes or text on a slide

Umm, Err, You know, Sort of, Obviously

The monotone voice

Pacing and swaying back and forth

Keeping your hands behind your back, in your pockets or clasped together

Fidgeting with a pen or slide changer remote

Fiddling with your hair or a ring

Speaking too fast

Making a statement as though you are asking a question


All of these are of course involuntary actions, none of them are conscious choices.

At Mindful Presenter our definition of a bad habit is: anything done repeatedly to the point of distracting your audience.

If you agree with our definition then this is where the phenomenon begins.

On every presentation training course and public speaking workshop we run at least 80% of the room are adamant that they have one or more of these bad habits. When it is their turn to stand and present and we ask the rest of the room to give them feedback most of these bad habits don’t seem to exist.

Interestingly the presenter will absolutely insist that the spoke too fast, swayed back and forth or used the term ‘Err’ repeatedly. Despite their conviction, 7 other very intelligent people are equally adamant that they saw no evidence of the bad habit.

The stand-off

How is it possible that the speaker can be so insistent in believing that they fiddled with their ring or blushed profusely yet no one else saw it? The phenomenon extends way beyond bad habits. Every day we coach professionals in our workshops who tell us they feel extremely anxious about presenting in front of others. When they’ve finished their presentation we ask them to tell us on a scale of 1 to 10 just how anxious they felt.

Each time we ask the question and the presenter tells us they felt highly anxious, guess what happens when we ask the other 7 people in the room?

Everyone is completely confused by that response.

In fact, each time it happens without exception the rest of the room say that they saw absolutely no evidence of such a high anxiety level. Many would go as far as insisting that what they saw was several points lower than the speaker was experiencing.

Why is that?

At Mindful Presenter whilst we are not psychologists or doctors we do have a technical term for the cause.

‘Mind stuff’

‘Mind stuff’ is that incessant voice in your mind that repeatedly tells you that:

‘You’re not good enough’

‘You are going to mess this up’

‘You’re rubbish at presenting’

‘You Umm and Err far too much’

‘Your audience will see how terrified you are’

‘Mind stuff’ is just noise.

It’s the voice of the ego

According to the author, motivational speaker and success coach, Tony Robbins, we each have 6 fundamental needs as human beings:

1.The need to feel significant

2.The need to feel certain

3. The need for variety

4.The need for growth

5. The need for contribution

6. The need for love and connection

The moment we stand to present our ideas or speak in public every single one of those core human needs is screaming out loudly to us in our minds:

1. ‘This is my chance to look good and impress everyone’

2. ‘This MUST go well; my entire reputation depends on it’

3.‘To stand out I have to be better and different than everyone else’

4. ‘This is a huge opportunity for me raise my profile’

5. ‘I only hope that my audience will value what I have to say’

6. ‘All I really want is for them to like me’

With such pressing demands from our ego to fulfill each of those needs and in our strife for perfection it’s no wonder we carry such burdensome ‘mind stuff’.

It’s easy to see where our ‘mind stuff’ comes from yet it’s not quite so simple to understand why it’s only something that seems to plague us which our audience can’t see.

It’s only real to us

There are two key elements to this phenomenon.

This first is that we experience what we think but that doesn’t always mean that our audience will.

The second component is even stranger because at Mindful Presenter we believe we have found the ‘cure’ to all bad habits which we can describe but can’t easily explain.

Where we do visibly experience those bad habits in our presentation skills training workshops and public speaking courses, we get delegates to do something where those habits instantly disappear.

Passion is the antidote to bad habits

Having witnessed someone swaying, keeping their hands behind their backs or speaking in a monotone voice we ask them to present to us something they are extremely passionate about.

As they stand to speak something almost magical seems to happen. Their passion takes them to a place where they can speak so easily, eloquently and freely that the bad habit that was once visible or audible seems to vanish.

Does it really vanish or do we just not notice it?

That may be an interesting question but we believe it is often an inappropriate one because our response is, does it matter? If something which was once a distraction to you then disappears completely then why should it matter where it went as long as it’s gone?

The point is, every time we see someone who is challenged by bad habits every time they speak about something they are passionate about those ‘bad habits’ either disappear completely or simply go unnoticed.

If passion is the key then why don’t we all use it?

That is another part of the phenomenon.

It seems to be very easy for someone to speak about something they really care about with passion yet not so easy when we are giving the quarterly update, sales pitch or team briefing.

Just because we are speaking about work that doesn’t mean we have to lose our passion as so many speakers do. We owe it to ourselves and more importantly to our audience to find something we are passionate about in what we have to say otherwise why would we waste their time when we could just as easily send them an email?

Every now and then one of our clients will explain that they simply can’t be passionate about what they are saying because it is such a boring topic.

Our response to that statement is quite challenging and disturbing to some people as we believe you only have two choices.

1. You find something in what you have to say that you really care about and can feel passionate over because you know it will make a difference to your audience.

2. If you truly can’t find anything to get excited about then you owe it to yourself and your audience to find a new job.

If passion is the elixir to high impact presenting and public speaking which allows both you and your audience to:

  • Feel significant
  • Feel certain
  • Feel you are different
  • Feel you are helping them to achieve and grow in some way
  • Feel you are contributing something of value to them
  • Feel you are connecting with them emotionally as well as intellectually

Why would you deprive them of your passion?

Try it for yourself the next time you present and watch those bad habits dissolve into the ether.

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