Some years ago, I was in London, Canada, speaking to a very large group of lawyers and their spouses about the power of the speaking voice. Part of my presentation on voice deals with color, which is the life, the animation, the emotion you express in speaking. In talking about this aspect of the voice, I mentioned a lawyer from London who was very well-known for being expressive – a most colorful man – by the name of Julius Melnitzer.

Melnitzer had recently been arrested and found guilty of the largest personal loan fraud case in Canadian history. At the time of my speaking engagement, he was in prison.

At the mention of this man’s name, the room went from most comfortably warm to frigidly cold. I could feel a decided coldness in my audience’s reaction to me with the words Julius Melnitzer. What had happened to change the ‘temperature’ in the room?

Not only had Melnitzer defrauded 5 banks of 67 million dollars, but he had also defrauded friends and professional colleagues – many of whom were sitting in that room – out of 14 million dollars.

What should I have done? I should have done my homework prior to addressing lawyers. While I certainly could mention Melnitzer’s colorful nature were I addressing a group of people with a different career background, my error was complementing this man’s expressive abilities to those working in the legal profession.

Public speaking is a marvelous way to increase your business by procuring more speaking engagements, the selling of products, networking, etc.; however, because there was no way to change the error once said, my success with that particular group was null and void at the mention of his name. Any hopes of future engagements or contracts, which might have resulted under different conditions, were not to be.

My mistake was most definitely an avoidable one had I been prepared. The purpose of this article is not to tell you what to do after the mistake is made but to tell you what to do to avoid making this type of mistake in the 1st place.

Not only do you need to research the group to whom you will be speaking, but you need to be on top of current events. This last prerequisite is an imperative must. Whatever your topic, keeping abreast of all material directly related to your presentation is vital; however, being aware of the indirect tentacles that may possibly stretch into your audience is just as important. While you certainly cannot foresee all possibilities, knowing your audience and their potential relationship to your topic should be your goal.

My ignorance definitely jeopardized my success that day. Don’t let ignorance or lack of preparation jeopardize yours.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skillsas well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. To see how voice training can improve your life, both professionally and personally, visit Voice Dynamic or watch a brief video as The Voice Lady describes Dynamic Public Speaking.