Honor the commitments you made with your audience, and you will keep your credibility.

FIRST: Honor your commitment to stay on topic.
Assume that you are speaking at a high school commencement. Traditionally, the administrators expect you and other commencement speakers to congratulate the students for what they have achieved, honor the parents who have supported them, thank the faculty, and assure the graduates they are well prepared for personal, social, and professional success.

Occasionally the speaker facing such a prestigious, well informed audience will feel the temptation to stray outside the expected mold—making comments about unjust wars the students may have to fight, calling some personal relationships immoral, condemning the capitalistic system, or slamming religious and political groups.

Usually this venturesome speaker will encounter visible loss of attention, which could even include some listeners leaving their seats or at least objecting vocally.

SECOND: Honor your commitment to end on time
Both novice and experienced speakers break trust with their hosts and audiences by becoming so wrapped up in their subject they lose track of time. One consequence is a wrecked agenda, so that the group leader has to reshuffle every presentation listed after the long-winded speaker.

Also, the audience grows restless, even resentful. The speaker who won’t shut up will soon be talking to a group that won’t listen up.

Take special precaution regarding “in conclusion.” When you give that alert, listeners anticipate you will continue no more than two or three minutes. Beyond that, you have broken a pledge.

Check the speaking locale a day before your speech. If there’s no clock on the wall, bring a small clock you can check inconspicuously. Note mentally the exact minute your allotted time must end—and stop on or before the clock displays that mark.

THIRD: Honor your commitment to avoid selling
“I won’t ask that speaker to conduct one of our educational seminars again,” the host said confidentially to another speaker. “He stopped teaching and started pushing his products. Not only did he not gain buyers, he lost listeners.”

Avoid even hinting about selling. Examples: “You’ll know what I’m talking about when you buy my book, which you can do online once you are allowed to cut your devices on again.”

FOURTH: Honor your commitment to remain dignified
At a civic club meeting, the guest speaker—thinking he would entertain the members—told a joke that made everyone uncomfortable, even embarrassed. Much to his surprise, when he sat down a lady walked to the microphone and said: “The joke our guest speaker told offended me, and I am sure many of you were shocked at his lack of respect for our club. Put me on record as objecting to his poor judgment.” You can be sure that speaker never faced that audience again.

When in doubt about a remark or joke—wondering whether there’s implied sarcasm, vulgarity, or ethnic disrespect—remember your commitment to dignity. Leave out any words that could tarnish your image.

Centuries ago, Aristotle said “it adds much to an orator’s influence that his own character should look right and that he should be thought to entertain the right feelings toward his hearers.” In fact, he continued, “His character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.”

That standard remains, requiring us to keep our credibility by honoring our commitments to audiences, hosts, and the occasion.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., President of Championship Communication, helps companies identify their communication problems and find solutions. He helps leaders learn to speak with "poise, power and persuasion." Also, he helps you produce top quality videos that strengthen your marketing. His client list includes Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Duracell, British Columbia Legal Management Association, and the Ritz-Carlton Cancun. Call him at 678-316-4300. Visit his Web site: http://www.championshipcommunication.com