9 ways to ruin your presentation

Frankie Kemp

2 June 2019

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

They span preparation to delivery.

But they’re not simply techniques for presentations.  You’ll find many of these characteristics also apply to general communication.

Number 4 below, for example.  Not that it’s such a negative trait in a natural conversation, but if you’re doing it constantly, it can undermine your gravitas and the confidence others have in you.

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.  For that reason alone: you’ll stand out – for the right reasons!


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.


Your Actions:

  1.  What’s the ONE thing that you can improve?  Ask a colleague or a friend.
  2. Focus on that ONLY.  That may seem counter-intuitive. However, I’ve found that one the focus is isolated to one aspect, others areas improve.  For example, concentrate on gesture for key words, and the voice finds its colour.
  3. Don’t wait for a formal presentation: many of these skills are applicable to general communication skills, meaning you can practise them in conversation TODAY!  (That way they become a habit so you don’t have to consciously think about these points during your actual presentations.


Unlock your presentation and pitching superpowers with 121 coaching, group training or self-paced online courses.  Start here.


Image by Willgard Krause from Pixabay

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