Lights off. Powerpoint on. And the presentation starts. We know the drill. We know it is boring. And yet we go ahead and present the way we do all the time. That’s the first mistake and the only big one – if you ask me! People find it hard to believe me when I say that presentations don’t have to be boring at all. I remember a training program that I conducted for a company in Mumbai. The pre-training presentations were all the same. But after the program, the group applied practical tips they learnt during the program to make their post training presentations remarkably different. You can make your presentations standout too. Avoid these mistakes:
Common presentation error #1: It’s all about the slides
Think about the amount of time we put in in making the slide deck. And the time that goes into things like practice, connecting with the audience, the outcomes expected and how would you achieve them. You know what I mean! People spend hours filling slide after slide with text and images. And the presentation is pretty much about the labour of your love – the slide deck!
How to fix it: Forget the slides. At least don’t let them dominate your prep for presentations. Think about the content and how you’ll talk about it independent of the slides. Bring in your personality as a speaker, make a connect with the audience and really talk to them. Use tools to make it about more than just the slides. (Read on for more)
Common presentation error #2: Your presentation is exactly as expected
Think of what comes to your mind when you think meetings or presentations? And what wouldn’t you give up to escape that fate! Don’t put others through it.
How to fix it: Subvert expectations. Do the opposite of what is expected of you. How about a non-boring start? (more tips coming up later) How about no slides at all- in some situations? I often hear my participants say that they deal with data and the senior management does expect wordy slide. I agree! But I don’t agree that data needs to be boring! Or any kind of presentation for that matter. Endless slides can be boring but that doesn’t mean you should be too. A human connection and a animated speaking style can do wonders to drag your presentation out of stupor.
Common presentation error #3: There are no signposts in your presentation
As the speaker, your talk is a familiar territory for you and hence you can move ahead from point to point easily. Your audience is only going to follow you – one step behind. And this is one of the most common things that happens at presentations. A lost audience is not a good thing.
How to fix it: How about introducing your flow right at the beginning. Thinking about this at your preparation stage will hugely help you phase out information. For example, you can say, I will first recap the project so far, move on to the road forward and end with suggestions to meet the deadline. Ensure that your transitions are clear so that the audience moves with you through the presentation instead of lagging behind.
Common presentation error #4: You haven’t thought about the audience enough
We are so caught up in the content and presenting it mechanically that we usually forget the audience. They expect a boring slide show and we give it to them. We download all the information we need to give them and don’t consider if they’ll be able to process it the way we want them to.
How to fix it: The important questions to as are – Why is the audience present in the meeting? What do you want them to take away? And the most important question – how do you make it interesting for them. The more interesting it is, the more memorable the content will be.
Common presentation error #5: Unnecessary content on your slides
If I had a nickel for every time someone defended slides full of bullet points, images, graphs, I’d be a rich person. We are so used to the ppt formats that have been passed down to us that we don’t want to consider alternatives.
How to fix it: Be ruthless and cut content clutter in your slides. Ask yourself if each word/graph/image has to go on the slide and if your presentation would be incomplete without it. Clean slides will definitely better your presentation and make it easier for the audience to focus on what you are saying instead of being distracted by the slides.
Common presentation error #6: You only explain the slides during the presentation
Since we put in so much of effort into the ppt, we forget to work on our speaking skills. Most presenters feel that their job is to explain the slides – after all slides are the most important part of a presentation, right? Wrong!
How to fix it: It is very hard to get people to understand that the speaker is the hero of the presentation, not the slides. So it is more important to work on your speaking skills. This will not just make your presentation interesting but also more effective. Practice speaking skills in general. Work on your volume, tone, pauses, intonation and rate of speech for a more impactful delivery – someone the audience is going to listen to. Not someone who’s just the representative of the slides.
Common presentation error #7: You don’t use tools to make your presentation interesting
As I already mentioned, presentations mean only ppts to most of us. The planning phase never usually involves any thought to ideas that can break stereotypes.
How to fix it: The big mindset change is to move your focus away from the slides and fix it on yourself. This is a solution to error #1. Think of tools like stories, anecdotes, questions, statistics etc that can be relevant and also make the presentation more interesting and thought provoking for your audience. Choose tools that will help you start with a bang to bring everyone’s attention back to the room and end with impact for a lasting impression. To know more about which tools to use and how to use them effectively, look up step 3 of The Speaking Wizard program that focusses on taking your presentations to a new level.
Here are a few more presentation tips from my Linkedin Pulse article: How to become a star presenter
Do you want to learn more tips on making impressive presentations? Click on the image to download this free cheat sheet as a checklist for your next presentation:
Do you have any secret tips that make your presentation special? Or would you like to share your favourite tip from this post and want to learn more about it. Drop in aline in the comments and let others learn from your experiences.