Public Speaking Fails

We’ve all been on the other end of a speech that can, in a few short sentences, turn an applauding crowd into a sleeping one. Those speakers who just aren’t confident, don’t know what they’re talking about, or talk so much they never stop.

But one person’s mistake is always everyone else’s lesson and there’s plenty to learn from these speeches gone afoul. From embarrassing political gaffes to ghastly acceptance speeches, they’re some of the best public speaking fails we could dig up, courtesy of Sternberg Clarke Entertainment.

Unless you live in the U.K., you’ve probably never heard of ‘doing a Ratner’ and a good thing you haven’t. Unless you want to be compared to the British jewelry store chain owner who managed to wipe out £500 million of his company’s value with just one speech at a shareholders meeting in 1991. 

“We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, “because it’s total crap.”

And that was one of the better things he said, going on to add that his stores earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich” and “would probably last longer.” His customers left in droves and he now known as the most horrific speaker in the entire U.K.

Lesson: Don’t condescend the very people that buy your products. Also, if you’re going to sell crap, at least do it with a silver platter.

During a presentation of the new Microsoft surface tablet, executive Steven Sinofsky ran through all of his finely crafted selling points with a device that froze. 

It must be a Microsoft thing, because the same thing happened to Bill Gates during his presentation of Windows98. Still, with all that brainpower and money you would think they would have worked out the kinks by now.  

Fortunately, Sinofsky’s speaking techniques were almost faultless. But it’s hard to cover up the fact that introducing a freezing device makes you look a little incompetent.

Lesson: Make sure you test whatever product you’re talking about before you present it. And if the problem keeps occurring, you may want to hire better developers.

For their CES 2014 keynote show, Samsung hired acclaimed Transformers director Michael Bay to add a little star appeal and discuss how the use of Samsung products helps him achieve his artistic visions.

What didn’t help was the fact that the teleprompter completely failed to give him the right lines and he promptly stormed off the stage.

Lesson: Hiring a high profile speaker can pay off, but it can also backfire disastrously. Also, if you’re going to promote high-tech products, you should at least have enough sense to test a teleprompter.

Um, errr, I think you can, well, sort of see, err, how this speech, sorta, well…. didn’t work out too, uh… well?

Kristen Stewart didn’t do too much to inspire confidence in her acting abilities, which may be why she seems to have vanished. Or maybe she just didn’t care about the award. But this poorly delivered acceptance speech is a pretty good reminder why so many actors make it on luck. 

Lesson: Enunciate and speak clearly with purpose. And if you’re getting an award for acting, it’s always good to at least act like you want to accept it.

This Republican politician was running for the office of Treasurer in Ohio and somehow decided that a completely insane sounding speech would get him elected. It’s like he took public speaking lessons from watching Wrestlemania.

Lesson: Use your OUTSIDE VOICE sparingly. And if you run for public office, don’t appear insane until after you’re elected.

During a television interview regarding the school strikes, labour leader Ed Milliband says that all the involved parties should put aside their rhetoric and get around the negotiating table. 

He also says that the strikes are wrong, and that the involved parties should get back to the negotiating table, because the strikes are wrong.

Lesson: Don’t keep repeating yourself, because that is wrong. 

Comparing a new bride to a Ford isn’t really the biggest compliment you can give during a best man’s speech, especially when encouraging the groom to “test drive a Ferrari.” 

The guy actually is pretty good at delivering the jokes, but I suspect he hasn’t asked to speak at any more weddings. 

Lesson: Don’t make inappropriate comments during any speech (unless you are 100% sure you’ll have friends afterwards).

No list of speaking failures would be complete without Sarah Palin who almost turns bad communications skills into an art. Although she apparently reads a lot, even though she couldn’t come up with a single name of anything she reads during a CBS interview with Katie Couric.  “What newspapers do you regularly read…to stay informed and understand the world?” Couric asked.

Palin’s answer? “All of ‘em, any of ‘em that have, have um, been in front of me, over the years.”

Lesson: Read a newspaper and do your research before you talk about anything. And if you can’t remember the name of a newspaper, then you probably shouldn’t be speaking at all.