Eight Terrible Mistakes which Presenters Make

by Paul Sloane

Have you ever been bored rigid by a presenter?

How can you avoid that fate if you have to make a presentation or give a talk? Here are the worst sins that speakers commit. Avoid these mistakes.

1. A Weak Start. The first impression that you make on the stage is very important. It should be positive and animated. Many presenters make a feeble start. They look down and mumble their first words or worse still, they make an apology. The audience wants you to succeed. They want you to be professional, informative and entertaining. So meet their expectations.

2. Over-use of PowerPoint. Slides can be useful – especially for showing charts or images. But many speakers load up their presentation with too many slides containing too many words. Then they read the slides. The audience reads the slide and does not look at the speaker. This is what’s known as, ‘death by PowerPoint’.

3. No Clear Message. Often presenters try to cover too much ground. They overload the audience with data. There are many different messages but there is no clear theme. Ideally your talk should have one central idea. And your pitch should have a structure that communicates the idea. For example you might start by talking about a problem, you might tell a story, you might propose a solution then you might end with a call to action – something you want the audience to do.

4. No Human Interest. Many talks are crammed full of facts, data, charts and statistics. They are dull. There are no stories. People relate to stories about people. So if for example, you want to improve customer service do not drone on about the percentage of net recommenders. Tell a story about someone who gave great service. Describe them and the situation. Make the story come alive.

5. Lack of Enthusiasm. A speaker who lacks enthusiasm cannot generate enthusiasm in the audience. Many presenters deliver their content in a dreary monotone, reading dry statements from a script. They send the audience to sleep. Your job as a speaker is to inform and entertain. You should look the audience in the eye and speak from the heart. Walk about the stage (but not too much). Vary your voice – pitch, speed of delivery and volume. Try to include some humor or something interesting and unusual; but keep it relevant to the topic.

6. Too much Me and not enough You. A big mistake is to make the talk about you, your company, your issues and your achievements. The audience is interested in their problems. You have to make your presentation relevant to them. So if you give examples about your company then draw out larger issues and lessons that are relevant and useful to your listeners. Count how many times you say ‘I’ or ‘we’ and count how many times you say ‘you’.

7. No Rehearsal. Many speakers make elementary mistakes on stage. They struggle with the equipment. Things they should have checked do not work. Their slides are out of order. It is clear that they have not rehearsed. You should practice your talk before the event so that you can be confident about every aspect of it. On the day of the event you should check all the equipment on stage and be familiar with all the logistics.

8. Overrunning on Time. This is a sin that many presenters commit. Event organizers and audiences do not appreciate a speaker who overruns his allotted time. Worse still, the speaker compounds the error by rushing towards the end to cram in all his remaining slides. If you have a 45 minute slot then practice a talk that fits comfortably into 40 minutes. That way you can end the talk in a strong, confident manner and take the time to really deliver your key message, If you have time over you can always offer to take questions.

Practice your presentation and deliver it with confidence and enthusiasm. Get your message across. You will enjoy it. More importantly, so will your audience.

image credit: bigstockphoto.com


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Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane

One comment

  1. Good post. I wish I could create a pdf from the site vs. having to do a “cut and paste” process.

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