Why is it so easy to recognize flaws and missed opportunities in others’ presentations, yet so hard to get it right for our own? The most punishing presentation mistakes are also the most common. Make sure these gaffs are permanently removed from your presentation repertoire:
1. Death by PowerPoint: PowerPoint is like that big delicious dessert bar at the all-you-can-eat buffet. It has so many options that we are tempted to try them all, but we would be much better off to show restraint. Consider these tips to optimize your presentation slides:
- Use screen images/content to reinforce what you are saying, not replicate what you are saying. There is nothing more boring than a plodding read-along. Do not depend on your slides to cover all your points or remind you what to say next.
- Choose interesting, unique and unexpected images to reinforce your points. This will keep your audience engaged and make your points (and presentation) more memorable.
- Keep screen copy to a minimum! Lengthy text on the screen is cumbersome and distracting. If your audience is reading your slide, they are not fully listening to you.
- Bullet points: Keep bullet points to 1 – 3 words. Build bullet points as you address the content, rather than have them all appear on screen at one time.
2. Failure to Engage Audience as Participants: It is well documented human behavior – we are more interested and engaged in that which we can participate. In addition, it is flattering when someone asks for our opinion or feedback. Now even primetime television uses polling and audience feedback to increase engagement. Make sure you have questions placed at strategic points in your presentation to sustain authentic audience participation, and have your presentation structured such that you actually use the feedback provided.
3. Exceeding the Time Allotted for Your Presentation: Running over your designated presentation time is self-destructive for several reasons. First, it reflects very poorly on you, displaying a lack of consideration for your audience as well as general rudeness on your part. In addition, your audience’s attention span will be waning by the end of a typical 45 – 60 minute presentation window. Exceeding that timeframe undermines your chance for a strong finish. Best bet: always treat your presentation time allocation as sacred.
Avoiding these common presentation mistakes will help ensure a positive experience for your audience and a positive sales outcome for you.