There’s no doubt that presentations are incredibly important for business and education settings alike — so why do most suck? Below are seven mistakes presenters commonly fall victim to, along with tips to combat them.
1. Dull and boring
No matter how good the content is, if the delivery is boring, the entire presentation will get written off as ‘boring’. The problem is, many presenters aren’t aware of exactly what they are doing that is making their deliveries so unengaging, and they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. The main factors that cause audiences to zone out of presentations include a lack of purpose, pace and persuasion. These presentations usually end up just being a dump of information. To avoid leaving your audience bored and uninspired, give your presentation a clearly defined purpose, deliver it in an engaging pace and tone, and make sure it’s persuasive in its underlying call to action.
2. The dots aren’t connected
Another mistake many presenters are guilty of is bombarding their audience with an overload of information. As presenters, we often feel that to create a good presentation we need to cover everything and as a result, we have a fear of missing out details. However, offering too many ideas or going into too much detail will draw your attention away from your key message. The key is to make sure all of your key points are all related back to your main idea. When drafting a presentation, make sure to only include what is relevant, important and interesting.
3. Presenter and visual aids aren’t in sync
Many presenters struggle to get the balance right between dialogue and visual aids. Visual aids should be used to enhance a presentation, not be the presentation itself. A great presentation is a live event that is driven by the presenter using the visual aid to help explain their ideas or as proof points to their claims. Develop your presentation by writing or sketching it out first and then designing a visual aid that supports what they are talking to. Consider moving away from the typical Google images and use a range of visual aids such as short videos and infographics. The aim to have the visual aid be in sync with what you are saying, rather than be the notes you’re talking off.
4. Lack of audience interaction
Presenters need to make regular direct contact with the audience to avoid making the presentation feel like a lecture. A question slide at the end isn’t enough — it’s too late. Make sure you frequently acknowledge your audience, make ideas relatable to them, and pose questions to them along the way. This will involve them in your ideas and make them more likely to remember them and act on your call to action. If it’s a big forum and you are worried that nobody is going to raise their hand, that’s fine. Think about the kinds of questions that your audience might have and ask them to yourself out loud. This should help foster a connection and encourage the flow of questions.
5. Designed for the presenter instead of the audience
We often have the tendency to get stuck into the writing process of a presentation, and it ends up being catered towards our own interests instead of the audiences’. We tend to go into too much detail about the ideas that we are personally invested in, instead of focusing on what that specific group of people would want to hear about. We also often neglect to simplify complex ideas and leave out details that we may not deem important. Make sure you research the demographic and interests of your audience before drafting your presentation, they will thank you for it later.
6. No emotion
The key to connecting with your audience and grabbing their attention is through emotion. If you are unable to evoke an emotion from them, your argument will lack persuasion and the audience will be far less likely to follow your call to action. Try to be as authentic as you can be. At times be humble, be bold when you are sure. Incorporate humour and tell stories to add a human interest element to your ideas. This will instantly add personality to your delivery and allow you to build a relationship with your audience.
7. Underprepared and under rehearsed
The worst presentations are the ones that have clearly not been prepared for. Failing to prepare for your presentation is not just embarrassing, it’s also a rude waste of your audiences’ time. Make sure you take the necessary time to get your speech and visual aids in order. Many people don’t put aside enough time to rehearse their presentations. This has the potential to let the entire delivery down and deflect from strong ideas and visuals. My advice is to do a couple of complete run throughs of the presentation standing up and a distance away from your computer to get an idea of what it will look and sound like on the day. This is a really important to make sure your presentation flows and your polished. This will also help your confidence in your presentation and put you in a better position to connect with your audience on the day.
Take these 7 presentation sins into consideration before you start putting your next one together — you’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your audience.