WHEN you sit and watch experienced professional speakers take hold of an audience, you are seeing magic in action.

They make everything look so easy and smooth that you wonder: “Were they born with a silver microphone in their mouth?”

In reality, all that platform polish is the result of many years of hard work and training. They have paid their dues many times over.

If you are less experienced, you probably make some errors in speaking. Once you are aware of these, your confidence and effectiveness as a speaker will multiply. Here are 15 of the most common speaking gaffes speech-givers make.

Stop arriving at the last minute. This stresses out the audience and organisers who do not know if they will have a speaker.

Stop playing fast and loose with the clock. You can’t start and stop your talk on your own terms. The organisers have a schedule to keep and your audience wants to be respected for their valuable time. Stay on schedule, and stop a bit earlier than you said you would to take questions.

Gain rapport with your audience. All audiences need to be warmed up, and taking the time to do this can help you give a better performance as well.

Stop trying to “wing it” by making up your talk as you go along. Even professional speakers do not do this.

Stop being so theoretical, intellectual and statistical. These are all guaranteed to turn off any audience. People want practical, useable material they can apply to their lives and careers, not heavy, academic, jargon-laden content that requires a PhD to understand.

Stop trying to be all things to all people as you speak. You will simply confuse people, who will be wondering what your topic is, and why they came to your programme.

Stop dressing like you just came from a beach party or are on the way to the hairdresser. Audiences like their speakers to look sharp, professional and well put together. A well-kept look gives you extra points on credibility before you even open your mouth. First impressions count.

Stop using the same speech for every audience. Do audience research and customise your talks. Your audience will appreciate it and probably ask you back for more. You will be speaking their language and hit the mark better than with a canned presentation.

Stop assuming that the audio-visual equipment and the room in which you are speaking have been set up properly. This is the stuff of disasters, and something you can easily avoid. Check that everything is in order.

Stop negating the value of solid writing, platform and staging skills. Every audience deserves the best speaker they can get, and you have an obligation to continue improving on your speaking skills every year.

Stop boring the audience. Enough said?

Don’t overwhelm the audience. Ditch the unnecessary information they don’t want or need. If you do your homework, you will know what is relevant to them.

Stop teasing the audience by being miserly about how much detail you are willing to give in your content. Some speakers say to the audience: “I won’t give you that information, because it’s in my book.” Perhaps some audiences might be thinking: “I won’t be giving you my money for your book.”

Stop being insensitive. Don’t use negative, disrespectful and uninformed jokes, stories, remarks, news events and other content that will alienate your audiences.

Stop displaying such a big ego. Remember, speaking is all about the audience and their needs, not the speaker’s gratification.