Do You Make These 5 Speaking Mistakes?

Like Us

Many of the failures in leadership are failures to communicate well.

Many of the failures in leadership are failures to communicate well.

No matter how smart we are or how good our strategies are, they are doomed for failure if no one understands them.

In previous articles, I dealt with poor written grammar, so much so that some of my friends refer to me as “the grammar cop.” In this article, I deal with five of the more common communication mistakes made by leaders when they speak.

1. Poor grammar.

Grammatical mistakes are not limited to written communication. They are much too common when leaders speak as well, including some leaders who are highly educated and in positions of great influence.

The most common speaking grammatical error that I have noticed in recent years is the incorrect use of reflexive pronouns. For example, the reflexive pronoun “myself” is used improperly in this sentence: “The award was presented to Janice, John and myself.” The correct pronoun is the nonreflexive “me.”

2. Too much information.

An audience can only absorb a limited number of facts in a given presentation. Some leaders attempt to cover a multitude of items, leaving the hearers bored, confused and frustrated.

Speak to the essential issues and provide supplementary written material if necessary.

3. Too many visuals.

PowerPoint and other visual aids can be either a help or a hindrance to a speaker.

Too often leaders try to put too much information in visual aids. At that point, the aid becomes a barrier to communication.

Consider having no more than one visual aid for each three minutes of speaking. You might be surprised how much the retention of your listeners improves.

Thom Rainer Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources ( Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.

More from Thom Rainer or visit Thom at

Please Note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, uncivil and off-topic. Read a detailed description of our Comments Policy.
  • Pastor Conan Hatch

    Wow, great points. It is true that some speakers leave out illustrations. I sit in some presentations hoping for the sake of the speaker that they tell a story of some kind. It takes a bit of effort to find the right illustration for each point but the rewards will far outweigh the effort.

    • MajorPayne

      I agree with you. When I sit and listen to a speaker share a story and you notice he is touched by it…WOW! That communicates.

  • Augustine Kalu

    God help us that our faith will not stand in the wisdom of men, for letter killeth but the spirit makes alive

  • ShebaBarb

    Good Points. Prepare yourself by studying the Word of God, praying about what to say and how to get the point across as in using examples or parables that most will be able to apply and have a little fire in you so it will spread out and cause those that are interested in listening to enjoy as well as utilize what thus saith the Spirit of the Living God.

  • MajorPayne

    I’m perfect. Yes I admit it. After speaking nearly 30 years around the country and too the attendees at the church I pastor. I’ve reached perfection. I’m polished and without much effort I can perform all five of these mistakes! (PS- thank you for this article. Many churches, including mine should send you a big “thank you”.)

    • Veteran

      Major Pain
      you are so right. I ministrred at a church last night and it was a small group. By letter the Spirit have its way and we step back everytging will fall in place.

      God Bless

      • MTNimrod

        “His”. By letting the Spirit have HIS way. He is a person. This would be another area that I think speakers should watch for.

  • Nicole

    Yes, I agree with all of your (five) points! However, I would add one more, which is using too many ‘filler’ words (e.g., um, uh, so): when every other word (or every two words) is one of those ‘filler’ words, it makes it very difficult (for me) to comprehend what the speaker is saying, because there are so many pauses – a lack of continuity in forming a thought or a sentence. I rarely ‘filler’ words, and tend to use no ‘filler’ words in most of my conversations or oral presentations. But many people I meet (or am around) use many ‘filler’ words more often than not. You may not find it a hindrance, but it surely has been a hindrance or barrier to me, in terms of being able to understand other people’s thoughts or situations.

    • C.Brian Ross

      I, um, like, agree with, um, what you, like, say, um, Nicole; and, um, Servantheart will, eh, agree as well, um, I think!!!!!!

      More seriously, I am glad to discover that I am not the only person who strives for excellence (perfection is always a little beyond my reach!) when it comes to the correct use of grammar. My personal pet ‘hate’ is the use of adjectives when adverbs are the appropriate part of speech! I don’t speak too fast; I speak too quickly (to give just one simple example!).

  • ExcelGodsWay

    #2 is the big one! Too often it seems as if the speaker is trying to impress you with how much they know. This is good for feeding those who are long time believers, but in my experience the number of lives won to Christ are slim to none when they speak too much! I often wonder, are we complicating the gospel?

  • ServantHeart2012

    Unless your audience consists almost exclusively of Bible scholars, one passage of scripture well taught trumps many passages tenuously linked together by a weak story line. The latter may seem impressive but generally leaves the audience bewildered if not completely disengaged.
    A recent phenomenon that seems to afflict young people is the use of the word “like” as a filler when the speaker is either composing their thoughts as they speak or desperately trying not to relinquish the opportunity to speak to someone else.
    Lastly, a simple “yes” or “no” is quite sufficient in most instances where a positive or negative response is in order. The rapid-fire “yeah yeah yeah yeah” of todays youth lends no more emphasis to “yes” than does the gratuitous expletive often added by those of simple mind.

  • Mar Komus

    Me: too few visuals, maybe too little pathos. I’m uh intulecshual.

  • Jkay

    Thanks alot, shall adjust by God’s grace.