10 Mistakes to avoid when you are giving a Presentation

We’ve all sat through lessons, classes and presentations that make us wince at the thought of ever going back to attend another one.   I vividly remember sitting trying to keep my eyes open through the monotonous drone of one of my University Lecturers in Aberdeen who hand wrote slides – and didn’t use any technology like Powerpoint, or even a wordprocessor.

We all dreaded those punishing lectures and sad to say, that if those presenters ever came in front of my desk for appraisals, there would be some pretty tough discussions going on these days.

I can think of many more presentation horrors, but the main ones are easy to fix with a little effort.

My favourite presenting horrors are:

1 . Reading the slides.

How can someone standing at the front of a room and hoping to reach an audience, think that reading the information that is on the slides on the wall is enough?   It is the sign of a lazy presenter, or one who can’t be bothered to find out what the audience wants to know.

2.  Ignoring your audience needs.

I attended a blogger conference last year that had a reasonably respected author holding a session on creative writing.  She was talking to a group of bloggers, but waved a hand in dismissal at what blogging stands for.   The session reduced the author to the realms of the ridiculous and there were countless tweets recounting how awful the session was and how dismissive the speaker was about her audience and their topics.   The speaker came unprepared and paid the price for how naive she was.

3.  Deliberately trying to be funny.

Spending hours trying to insert funny anecdotes can backfire on a novice speaker in more than one way.  People take humour differently and what might be funny to you could easily offend someone else.    Leave the jokes at home unless you are Billy Connolly.

4 – Lack of interaction.

This is the early stages of social networking people.   How boring is it to just be talked at?   Yes, I know some people don’t like to be challenged with questions on the spot, but making opportunities for break out groups, discussions and examples with case studies break up the monotony and get people engaged with the presentation.

It should always be two-way.  I attended a presentation at my childrens’ school recently, with some big technology hitters, and their presentations were acceptable but boring and non-interactive until questions at the end.  There is a bigger presentation to the whole school body of parents coming up with the same speakers, and sadly, due to controversy in the content, I am all too aware of how the sessions could end up.

5 – Not liking or believing in your subject.

If your topic bores you, then how are you going to make it interesting for your audience?   Yes, I know many have to take paying jobs in whatever area they can, but if you don’t sound like you believe in your subject, then your audience isn’t going to want to know more, or to give you any business from a lacklustre performance.

6 – Too much information on the slides.

I would have put this one further up the list, but there are others that are more irritating.  If you have too much information on the slides, there is a chance that people will read that and not listen to what you are saying.  Bullet point reminders are more than enough for any presentation slide.    Just reading the slides that have too much information is enough to send your audience to dreamland.

7 – Reading from sheets of paper.

Uh oh.  This is an unprepared presenters bag.   How on earth are your audience going to think you know what you are talking about if you are reading from ream of A4 sheets of paper.  There are situations where this is acceptable, such as weddings, funerals, university tutorials, special needs talks etc.   Reading from sheets of paper has ZERO place in business, or where you have an audience who has parted with money for a professional and knowledgeable speaker.

Use small reminder cards you can slip past each other like a deck of playing cards if you need some topic hints to get you though, but make sure you are ready and know the content that comes into each segment of your talk.

8 – Not answering questions.

We have all seen the politician sidestep whereby a question is ignored in reference to another one, or the speaker randomly changes subject to avoid answering it.  All speakers come across questions that they can’t answer.   I have much more respect for a speaker who says they don’t know, but will find out and get back to me (and takes contact details to be able to do that).

9 – The tone.

The monotonous droning tone that goes on and on and on and makes us fight sleep during a presentation is every attendees worst nightmare.  Heaven forbid that someone actually asks us to tell them anything the presentation was about while a drone has been in front of a crowd.  Nerves can make a speaker drone on and on and I used to be a bit of a droner myself until someone pointed it out to me several years ago.  I now have that issue well behind me.

Use expression in your voice and practice it in front of a camera which will let you hear how you would sound to an audience.  If you can’t bear to listen to you, how will an audience?

10 – The content.

I can count far too many presentations I have attended that have been out of date.   Going back to my childrens’ school, an Internet Safety presentation was so badly out of date that I felt like weeping from the beginning when I realised I was going to have to sit through the whole thing in silence.

Check your content is up to date and revise what you are going to talk about if it isn’t.  Just because you think you may have an uneducated audience, don’t be fooled into thinking they are stupid.

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