15 Bad Speeches We Can Learn From

Written by Jenessa Ong

On December 11, 2017

If you’ve been an avid reader of our blog and generally presentation content on the internet, you’ll likely have been exposed to golden standards of presenting. (Think Steve Jobs) But how often have you encountered bad speeches that you can learn to avoid? Part of being a great public speaker or presenter is knowing what NOT to do so you can safeguard your reputation and speech.

Here are 15 bad speech examples for you to learn from:

Michael Bay quits Samsung

Have you ever forgotten your script, or perhaps experienced a faulty projector while presenting? Well, Michael Bay sure did. At the Samsung CES press conference in 2014, he failed to promote the new Samsung curved TV. After an error with the teleprompter, he apologized and walked off the stage, leaving the audience speechless and confused.

To avoid facing an awkward situation, pay close attention to certain key messages while practising. It will guide you through the presentation and help you recall the points, which could buy you some time to sort your cues.

Questioning Round: Miss Teen USA

In the Miss Teen USA 2007 question and answer round, Caitlin Upton struggled to answer her question: “Recent polls have shown that ⅕ of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map, why do you think this is?” She stumbled through her 30 seconds with an answer that barely made any sense.

You may come across some difficult questions when doing a Q&A session after a presentation. The best way you can deal with an unfamiliar question is to get back to the person after finding the answer. Always think through before replying and if you are unclear, ask them to repeat, or explain their question further. Failing to do so can lead to dire consequences on stage (usually an embarrassing time) if you rush through the question.

Emmy Awards 2013

The chances of winning an Emmy Award is probably one in a million, and award winners typically thank their families, producers and so on. However, all Merritt Wever had to say was “thank you so much. okay, I got to go. Bye.” The audience was baffled at the situation.

One thing that we can definitely learn from this is to have a prepared speech if you know you are being nominated. It may come off as rude if you don’t do so as you will leave the audience hanging, expectant of a thank you speech.

Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention Speech

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention 2016 caused a huge controversy and uproar. Many observers were able to tell that her words were extremely similar to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s previous speech.

There may be days when you are inspired by others, and decide to put their speeches into yours. Do give the owners credit for it, which simply be done by mentioning these phrases, “quoted by”,”mention by” or “from”.

Theresa May’s Calamitous Conference Speech

This may be one of the most catastrophic speeches of all. The conference was to address and reassure her party’s political members about Brexit and Britain’s future. Amongst this seriousness, a comedian rudely disrupts her by handing over a resignation form and props behind were falling apart. Besides that, she was coughing endlessly into the mic, trying to proceed with the speech.

Props to her for trying to keep things together after an interruption, but coughing into the mic may seem unprofessional and unhygienic. One way to tackle these bad speeches is to turn away from the mic while coughing, though it would be best to hold it in. If you are losing your voice, do clear your throat first before speaking into the mic.

Santa Cruz City Council

One way of improving your city is to have people volunteer their ideas. Here is an example of a poorly executed speech with little structure and redundant hand gestures. It is natural to feel anxious when presenting in front of people with authority, however, it is important to keep your cool and practice before a speech.

A method to counter such anxiety is to have a list of things to be covered according to the flow of the speech. Having a specific structure helps both you and your audience understand the thought process better. Another way you can go about doing it is by practising in front of the mirror, which helps to boost your confidence and eliminate bad fidgeting habits.

Politician Rallying Votes

Being passionate and believing in yourself is important when you’re trying to convince people. Nevertheless, being overly zealous could potentially scare your audience, harming your chances to be voted. Looking at the video, you can probably tell that yelling makes it hard to hear your speech, and the tone of your speech affects the way your audience reacts.

One way to prevent this is to have your family members or colleagues listen to your speech beforehand. Have them pinpoint out specific mistakes such as voice projection, posture, and tone. Through this method, you will have a sense of what your audience will feel, and improve to make your speech better.

Pitching for 1million Pounds on Dragons’ Den

Asking for and receiving a million pounds is no easy task. Bathomatic failed to secure a deal with any of the dragons. In his pitch, he mentioned the problem, the solution and how he came up with this idea, however, there was something missing. He did not mention any benefit statement or justification for a large amount of money.

During a pitch, it is important to address your audience’s concerns. Questions such as “why should they invest in you?”, “what can you bring to the table for them?” can guide you in making a much more persuasive speech.

Common Mistakes Made

Here is a group of 4 students attempting to do a presentation on Apple. Throughout the video, we spotted numerous errors commonly made by presenters. Here are 5 mistakes which you should take note of:

1. Reading off the slides with your back facing the audience
This is where cue cards come into play. If you are having a hard time remembering your script and need pointers to remind you, cue cards are a good alternative to solve that. They prevent you from back facing the audience and increases the engagement rate, but remember not to rely on them for the entire presentation!

2. Redundant animation sounds
Just like sound effects in movies, they’re used to emphasize certain motions. Excessive use of this defeats the purpose and may be seen as annoying. Try to avoid using sound effects during a serious presentation as it destroys the atmosphere of a meeting or a pitch.

3. Teammates standing around
This could be one of the toughest problems that group presenters encounter during a presentation. Teammates who are not presenting maybe fidgeting or look disinterested, which could distract your audience. In order to stop it from happening, have your team members nod in agreement to what you have to say. However, if they’re not involved, get them to join your audience instead.

4. Long paragraphs of information
Based on a study done on 439 people by Dave Paradi, more than half felt annoyed when full sentences are used in Powerpoint. The solution to this is to break down sentences into shorter points, and every slide should only have one message. For example, if you are presenting a new product, separate the functions into different slides. This aids your audience in understanding and gives them a clear focused message.

5. Chewing on sweets/gums
Take a look at the boy standing at the far right. Do you notice something?

He has been chewing on a gum since the start of the presentation all the way until the end!

While you’re enjoying your gum, others may see it as ill-mannered. Avoid eating any candies, chocolate, and gum right before your presentation. Chewing on something while presenting will not only be seen as disrespectful, but it will harm your voice projection as well. The best is to keep away from such sweet treats until the end of the presentation.

Nervous Breakdown During Business Presentation

This is a scene from Billable Hours, where Robin suffered a stage fright presenting in front of her peers. Despite having cue cards, she struggled to hold her presentation together.

The greatest takeaway here is to always practice your script beforehand. Practicing helps you retain and generate a flow of key messages. While practising, generate a structure that is easy for you to remember when you’re presenting. It makes you less dependent on cue cards and increases your chances of having eye contact with your audience.

Science Communication Workshop Presentation

Here is a spoof of a science communication workshop presented by Dr Fisher-Kat. Besides the noticeable clutter of words and pictures on a single slide, she was rambling on about the different scientific terms. At 2:10, a lady asked a question, however, she received an insulting reply.

When you’re presenting to people, especially a general audience, it is best to keep things simple. Removing and simplifying terminology will help your audience in understanding. If such terms are needed, explain them in layman terms.

Dealing with questions can be difficult, especially when you’re given a time limit. Using “Can I get back to you later?”, helps you kill two birds with one stone. You will be able to proceed on with your presentation while giving your audience a peace of mind that they will be answered. You can have a short chit-chat with the person after the presentation or simply drop them an email.

Pitching Without Prepared Product

Whether it is pitching to your customers or investors, the most crucial parts are your services and products. But what happens when one fails to work? In this episode of Dragon Dens, an aspiring entrepreneur attempts to demonstrate his service. However, it did not work in his favour, leaving the dragons uninterested and speechless.

The biggest turn off for the investors is when you’re pitching something that does not work. To prevent this from happening, always do checks before going up on stage to do your grand pitch. Similarly, if your pitch requires help from others, remember to remind them of it. Being prepared definitely saves you from embarrassing situations.

Forgetting Your Script

There are two contrasting sides of this presentation, one being an engaging presentation, the other being a really confusing one. We also noticed that he forgot his script for a second in the middle of the presentation. How can we prevent ourselves from being seen as unprepared and confusing?

One way to go about doing this is by structuring your presentation. Stating the purpose of your presentation at the start would definitely help your audience understand better. This can be followed up with points supporting your key messages, and a summary of your main points. A presentation is just like writing an essay, there has to be a logical flow in order for your audience to understand better.

Sean Penn’s 2004 Oscar Speech – For Um-ing Too Much

A speech with flow often comes with tons of practice, but what happens if it is an impromptu speech? How do we give a speech without pausing for too long?

Impromptu speeches may be one of the hardest things to pull off. Besides thinking on your feet, you will have to speak in front of an audience with professionalism. However, these mistakes may seem minute when you’re fully focused on your presentation.

In this example, Sean seems to pull off his thank you speech pretty well except the countless number of times when he paused with an “um”. Though it is said subconsciously, it can make your speech choppy.

One method to avoid excessive pauses is to prep beforehand. You might want to know the background of the situation better before heading up to the stage. This way, you will have a rough idea of what needs to be covered when you’re on the stage.

For example, you will need to give an impromptu speech about your product to a group of investors. You can structure it by starting off with an introduction of yourself and your product, followed by benefits and lastly, sales and thank you. With a rough outline in mind, it could save some awkward pauses on stage and it might eventually impress the investors too.

IABC 2012 World Conference in Chicago

Buzzwords used in corporations around the world were collected and presented by Gerard Braud as an example of what no employee wants a CEO speech to sound like.

Simplifying terms used in your speech helps your audience to digest your content much easier as compared to the different unheard terminologies. When presenting to a general crowd, it is essential to understand that they might not entirely think the same way as you do.

One way to avoid miscommunication and confusion is to think in the audience’s perspective or get your family and friends to listen to you. If they don’t get the message you’re trying to convey, there is a high chance that the actual crowd may not understand it as well. Edit the speech accordingly, practice and you’re good to go!

Were you cringing while watching some of those bad speeches? You’re not the only one. To avoid a similar situation happening during your next speech or sales presentation, follow these tips based on learnings from the bad speeches above:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Structure your key messages in a logical flow
  3. Prepare and check your props beforehand
  4. Practice Practice Practice
  5. Be calm when you face unforeseen circumstances

Prepare for the worst and you’ll never fall victim to a technical, or memory fault.

Article Written By: Jenessa Ong

Jenessa is a marketing executive at HighSpark. In her free time, she enjoys sipping on a hot cup of Starbucks coffee and putting together visually creative presentations.

Written by:
Jenessa Ong

Jenessa is a marketing executive at HighSpark. In her free time, she enjoys sipping on a hot cup of Starbucks coffee and putting together visually creative presentations.

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