How can you avoid distracting public speaking habits? But first, let’s focus on the difference between what people think are distracting speaking habits versus what actually are distracting.
In my impression, people think distracting habits involve moving your hands, which is extremely incorrect. If you hold your hands together in front of your body or behind your back at the so called military at ease position, that is actually distracting because it makes you look nervous.
In actuality, the number 1 distracting habit that speakers do is being boring! They read bullet points off of a PowerPoint slide and ignoring the audience. They are being too abstract and are not giving any stories or examples. That is the top distractor because what do people do when they are bored? They check their e-mail. And once they start doing that, you have lost them forever.
Other things people think are distracting are ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. If you are doing it infrequently, then in my experience, no one will be distracted. No one will even notice. Now, if you let out 7 ‘ums’ in the first 20 seconds of your speech, then it will be distracting but it is relatively rare. So instead of worrying about your ‘ahs’, worry about the possibility of you being boring.
The other thing that is distracting is being too frozen and stiff, grabbing your lectern and papers tightly and unmovingly. People tend to think that since they are moving their head too much, they are being distracting, which is wrong. When your head is frozen in place stiffly, that is when people think you are scared and nervous.
So while it is possible to be distratcing to your audience, the things you may think are distracting are actually not.