Public speaking is one of the best mass marketing tools that does not depend on an algorithm for organic reach. More important, it will increase sales and demand in your business. 

Over the past decade, I have watched professional speakers make crucial mistakes, which have led them to underestimate the unlimited potential of the industry. I have met ambitious speakers who think it is easy to just "get up there and speak," without understanding the difference between speakers who are consistently in demand, and those who cannot command top dollar for their mastery.

I have made several similar mistakes along my journey in the speaking industry. There were many times that I questioned my commitment to continue speaking as I was in a consistent cycle of making the same mistakes because I was hesitant to change. Once I took a full audit of all the strategies that were not working, I immediately eliminated them from my stage presence. 

Here are four of the more common mistakes that professional speakers make while attempting to grow their mastery, and strategies to change them. 

1. Fully depending on a slide deck 

If you consider yourself a subject matter expert, you must master the art of speaking with or without slides. I have given numerous keynote talks where the venue had technical difficulties five minutes before showtime, but the show must go on.

It is more of a skill than an art. Yes, you can have slides if permitted by the event coordinator, but it can come across as cold and disconnected from the audience's perspective, and you will lose their attention while they are focused on the presentation, not the speaker. 

Lean on your expertise and experience, not the slide deck. Your audience deserves to see and hear you. Your presence onstage can get lost in a presentation, so master your stage presence and speech beforehand. 

2. Boring the audience

 Yes, share your life story with the audience and connect it to your takeaways, but don't forget to make it memorable. The best way to wake up the crowd is to tell a joke or start with audience participation. The earlier you warm up the crowd, the more memorable your presentation will become. 

3. Failing to use "layman's terms"

This is especially true for my fellow passionate academics who are so completely invested in their research that they forget about the importance of speaking to a crowd, rather than to colleagues. It is a common mistake that can be highly intimidating to audiences who may not be at your professional level. 

Use language that is relatable for all. From the CEO to the janitor, you never know who is sitting in the audience. Find creative ways or use an assimilation to explain your work. If you lose your audience because of a lack of understanding, you will lose their attention and interest overall. 

4. Using generic assumptions and unproven statements

Nothing says "unprofessional" more than a speaker who has 40 to 60 minutes of stage time to discuss what "most" or "many" people believe. It actually is one of the worst communication blunders, outside of fillers such as "um" and "like." 

Research the numbers and reference your sources. Do not design a speech that starts with "Most people do this" or "Many people do not want to do that." Instead, present the facts, "According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, 48 percent of people are ... " Attention to detail lends additional credibility to your talk. 

Again, public speaking is one of the most powerful marketing and networking tools in the world. However, it can be a challenge to grow the demand for your expertise if you continue to make these common mistakes. Instead, follow these tips and you'll increase the visibility and value of your business.

Published on: Oct 2, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.