9 ways to ruin your presentation

If I had a penny for each time I saw thee 9 presentation gaffes, I’d be able to buy up Apple.

And if people aren’t making them, they think they should be.  For example, some of you may think not having copious notes and lines to learn is poor preparation.

Most of the time it’s actually skewing your message and the way you convey it.

So here are 9 common presentation mistakes and some references that will help you avoid them completely.


1. Omit a key message

Whatever you present, your audience will connect with you if there’s a strong key message.  This is the purpose for the listening to you.  There has to be something it for them, if you want action or buy-in. To get that support, this is what you’ll need to have as the centre piece of your message.  It’s vital and most people miss it out completely.  You won’t.

2. Get someone else to prepare the slides

Unless you’ve worked with them to make sure your key message comes across, the slides will probably be full of words, diagrams that will make your eyes ache and lull the audience into a deep boredom.  Look here for what your slides should be doing (if you need any at all).

3.  Stuff your visuals with bullet points

Memory is associative so pictures aid the content more than bullet points can.  Differentiate between your prompts and what will help the audience to remember your points.  Here’s how to remember your points and keep to them.

4. Use ‘um’ instead of pauses

Sound confident and deliberate, working to eradicate fillers such as ‘um’.

5. Wave your arms around like you’re air traffic control

Gesture needs to be purposeful.  Studies have shown that meaning is aided by the speakers deliberate use of gesture.  If you’re swinging your arms around, we’ll lose the meaning.

6. Fall off a cliff

You’ve intensified to the apex of an argument, given a raptuous context for a bright new future or have whipped up enthusiasm for a product. Suddenly, you stop, smile awkwardly and ask “Any questions?”  before skulking off.

Here’s a much better way to to end your talks.  It will lead you to the ‘3 point closure’ method.

7. Begin with a joke.

Jokes depend on timing which is difficult to judge unless you’re an experienced stand up comic.  Humour, on the other hand, is easier, even if you’re not funny and your content is as dry as a bone.  Here are some ideas.

8. Avoid any eye contact with your audience.

Looking over your audience will break any possibility of connection with them.  If looking directly at them unnerves you, especially at the beginning, let your eyes rest on a friendly face.   In theatre training, actors are taught to look at the audiences’ foreheads: when you’re several feet away from them, it’s a way of cheating eye contact.  Within minutes, you become so relaxed that looking directly in the eyes is just as comfortable.

9. Speak in one tone.

It’s difficult to listen to a drone.  Using gesture and a change of vocal pitch will add colour to your voice.

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