Presentation Traps … avoid them!

Effective Presentation SkillsWhat presentation mistakes are sure-fire ways to put your audience to sleep or send them running for the doors? Even the best presentation can be destroyed by a bad presenter.

Let’s look at some presentation traps you should try to avoid:

Don’t “wing it”
Preparing for a presentation can be a real drag and your audience won’t notice. They enjoy listening to you deliver incoherent and incomplete ideas. They don’t mind if you keep jumping back and forth through your slides. You assume they know enough about the topic that you can safely use lots of jargon and acronyms.

Do some research on your audience. Why are they here? How much do they already know about your topic, and what do they most want to learn from you? Know your material so well, that you could easily do the presentation without an electronic enhancement such as PowerPoint.

Use key words and phrases and include only essential information to keep the audience focused and interested. Be prepared for questions and know the answers. Reorganize your talk to avoid jumping back and forth or duplicate the needed slide in the second place where it fits.

Don’t start with excuses
“They only invited me yesterday”, “I’m really tired from my trip”, “I had a really late night” or another lame excuse that the audience really doesn’t want to hear. The audience just wants to see you give it your best. If you really feel awful and can’t give it your best, then perhaps it would be better to postpone, cancel or get someone else to replace you – obviously someone who knows the subject matter well.

Don’t cram lots of information into each slide
Add so much text on a slide that people will spend time reading it. What happens when they read it? They will stop listening to you! Even worse, read it out loud for them! The best way to lose your audience’s attention is to add too much text to a slide. The best rule of thumb for text is to keep it simple.

This doesn’t mean that you should spread your content over dozens of slides. Limit yourself to 10 slides or fewer for a 30-minute presentation. Look at each slide, story, or graph carefully. Ask yourself what it adds to the presentation, and remove it if it isn’t important.

Don’t overuse sound effects, animation, photos and graphs
Over-complicate your presentation. You figured no one will notice that you didn’t do much research on your topic if you add lots of sound effects, animation, photos and complicated looking graphs. You found all the really cool animations and sounds and used most of them in your presentation, to impress everyone with your flair. Except the audience doesn’t know where to look, and have totally lost the message of your presentation.

Use photos, charts and diagrams only to emphasize key points of your presentation. They add a nice break to the material, and when used correctly, can only enhance your oral presentation. Illustrate, don’t decorate. Animations and sounds, used well, can heighten interest, but don’t distract the audience with too much of a good thing. Design your presentation with the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Don’t let your audience suffer from animation overload.

Don’t mumble or rush through your presentation
You feel so nervous and want to get this presentation over with as quickly as possible. Just mumble, mutter and stammer your way through your speech, hoping to finish and get off the stage.

Use centering or deep breathing techniques to suppress the urge to rush. If you do begin to babble, take a moment to collect yourself. Breathe deeply, and enunciate each word clearly, while you focus on speaking more slowly. Even though we spend a significant part of the day talking to one another, speaking to an audience is a surprisingly difficult skill, and it’s one that we need to practice.

Don’t show a lack of dynamism
Stand in one spot with your hands in your pockets or behind the podium for the duration of your presentation. That way, no one will spot how awkward and uncomfortable you feel.

Work the stage. Use gestures and body language to communicate your excitement and passion for your subject. Pay attention to what your hands are doing – they’re important for communicating emotion. But only use gestures if they feel natural, and avoid being too flamboyant with your arms, unless you want to make your audience laugh!

What presentation mistakes are sure-fire ways to put your audience to sleep or send them running for the doors? Even the best presentation can be destroyed by a bad presenter.

Let’s look at some presentation traps you should try to avoid:

Don’t “wing it”
Preparing for a presentation can be a real drag and your audience won’t notice. They enjoy listening to you deliver incoherent and incomplete ideas. They don’t mind if you keep jumping back and forth through your slides. You assume they know enough about the topic that you can safely use lots of jargon and acronyms.

Do some research on your audience. Why are they here? How much do they already know about your topic, and what do they most want to learn from you? Know your material so well, that you could easily do the presentation without an electronic enhancement such as PowerPoint.

Use key words and phrases and include only essential information to keep the audience focused and interested. Be prepared for questions and know the answers. Reorganize your talk to avoid jumping back and forth or duplicate the needed slide in the second place where it fits.

Don’t start with excuses
“They only invited me yesterday”, “I’m really tired from my trip”, “I had a really late night” or another lame excuse that the audience really doesn’t want to hear. The audience just wants to see you give it your best. If you really feel awful and can’t give it your best, then perhaps it would be better to postpone, cancel or get someone else to replace you – obviously someone who knows the subject matter well.

Don’t cram lots of information into each slide
Add so much text on a slide that people will spend time reading it. What happens when they read it? They will stop listening to you! Even worse, read it out loud for them! The best way to lose your audience’s attention is to add too much text to a slide. The best rule of thumb for text is to keep it simple.

This doesn’t mean that you should spread your content over dozens of slides. Limit yourself to 10 slides or fewer for a 30-minute presentation. Look at each slide, story, or graph carefully. Ask yourself what it adds to the presentation, and remove it if it isn’t important.

Don’t overuse sound effects, animation, photos and graphs
Over-complicate your presentation. You figured no one will notice that you didn’t do much research on your topic if you add lots of sound effects, animation, photos and complicated looking graphs. You found all the really cool animations and sounds and used most of them in your presentation, to impress everyone with your flair. Except the audience doesn’t know where to look, and have totally lost the message of your presentation.

Use photos, charts and diagrams only to emphasize key points of your presentation. They add a nice break to the material, and when used correctly, can only enhance your oral presentation. Illustrate, don’t decorate. Animations and sounds, used well, can heighten interest, but don’t distract the audience with too much of a good thing. Design your presentation with the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Don’t let your audience suffer from animation overload.

Don’t mumble or rush through your presentation
You feel so nervous and want to get this presentation over with as quickly as possible. Just mumble, mutter and stammer your way through your speech, hoping to finish and get off the stage.

Use centering or deep breathing techniques to suppress the urge to rush. If you do begin to babble, take a moment to collect yourself. Breathe deeply, and enunciate each word clearly, while you focus on speaking more slowly. Even though we spend a significant part of the day talking to one another, speaking to an audience is a surprisingly difficult skill, and it’s one that we need to practice.

Don’t show a lack of dynamism
Stand in one spot with your hands in your pockets or behind the podium for the duration of your presentation. That way, no one will spot how awkward and uncomfortable you feel.

Work the stage. Use gestures and body language to communicate your excitement and passion for your subject. Pay attention to what your hands are doing – they’re important for communicating emotion. But only use gestures if they feel natural, and avoid being too flamboyant with your arms, unless you want to make your audience laugh!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Communication Skills, Leadership

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