The Most Common Presentation Mistakes That You Need to Avoid Making
A post from our Presentation Skills blog
Written by Jordan James
Presentations are a very important part of our professional life. Whether you're an entrepreneur making a sales pitch to an investor, an executive trying to market a product, or even a new professional trying to land a job, you will have to walk this road at one point or another.
The good news is that it's not a difficult task if you know what you're doing and are well prepared. To help you get the most out of your work and impress your audience, here are some of the most common presentation mistakes you should avoid:
Lack of Preparation
When you're making a presentation, you need to place your best foot forward. This means that you need to be familiar with the content of your speech, the topic and your slides, and prepare for any questions your audience might ask you as well.
In order to get the most out of your presentation, you need to rehearse as often as you can. If you can, try to practise with a friend or a family member, and ask them for their opinion.
Sometimes what you've written makes sense to you but it may not be very clear to your audience, so practising in front of someone else and making sure they understand your material will help you make sure your presentation is polished and informative, and that your point is getting across to your audience as you intended it.
Too Much Text
As a general rule, the slides or visuals in good presentations should always be clear and readable.
In fact, your audience should be able to get the gist of your presentation just by skimming the content of your slides. This means that you should always use a clear, bold font, present your points in bullet points, and keep the information concise.
If you pack your slides with too much text, people will have difficulties understanding the content, which would only frustrate them. Or, and this is potentially worse, they switch off during the presentation knowing that everything will be in the handouts/slides that they get afterwards.
On the other hand, you should also try to avoid spreading out your content too much and having too many slides.
Always aim to keep your presentation short and to-the-point without overwhelming your audience.
Not Actually Presenting
One of the most common mistakes people make when giving a presentation is not actually presenting - that is, reading their slides out loud.
Not only is it pointless because your audience can read the content themselves, but your aim is to elaborate on those points. The slides are just a visual medium to convey your points in a clear, concise manner. They're also an accompaniment to your speech.
Reading your slides, word for word, will make your presentation dull and ineffective, and show your audience that you haven't worked hard enough on it - which is definitely something you want to avoid.
As a rule, ask yourself if you should even be looking at the slides. You may want to check on them now and again to ensure that the correct slide is showing, or to highlight a point on one, but your focus must be on your audience, not on your own content.
Not Knowing the Venue
You might be familiar with the concept of a dress rehearsal, where actors perform the entire play on stage before they're set to go live.
This ensures their equipment and outfits are all in order and work well before they're in front of a live audience.
You need to be similarly prepared when you're about to give a presentation. The last thing you want is to find out that your laptop doesn't work with the projector, or the presentation venue doesn't have sufficient space to seat the audience.
In order to avoid this, make sure to visit the venue and check the equipment in advance - it will help you address any problems before you're set to present your piece.
If it is not possible to see the venue beforehand, check with a contact at the venue or the person that has invited you, about certain details. They may be able to send you details in regards to all sorts of useful information, such as the layout of the venue, where speakers and screens are situated, what PA system is used (or even if an audio system is used or not, you may simply be having to speak loudly!), what they provide in terms of tables, drinks etc that you as the presenter can use.
Another key aspect about a venue is how close the point at which you can drop off your materials is to the area where you are presenting. The last thing that you want is to arrive appearing untidy and sweating profusely because you have just had to carry all your materials some significant distance. Knowing if there is a good distance may mean that you arrange a trolley or some other tool. Or arrange help!
Taking Too Long
Nothing ruins a presentation more than somebody who is overstaying their welcome.
One of two things is going to happen, and you want to avoid both.
The first is that you finish up, after taking way too long, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of your audience. Whatever the purpose of your presentation was, its unlikely that you'll now see that realised.
The second is that you get cut short. Now you don't even have the chance to finish, and you may miss the opportunity to give whatever call to action you had in mind for the end.
Wandering off the topic
For people that prefer to ad lib, or have only a vague outline of their topic, there is the risk of wandering off topic.
This is directly linked to the mistake of taking too long. by the time you get back on topic and finish, you have now run past the optimal time threshold.
Or worse, you never really get back on topic and leave out important bits!
Not Handling Questions Well
The age old dilemma: what to do about questions. You need to have a strategy about how you are going to deal with questions. This includes both people interrupting while you're still speaking, and also should you open the floor to questions after the talk.
You need to focus on two things; the first is that you retain control! The second is that you still have to be on track to complete your goal from giving the presentation. Don't let questions run on for some long at the end that your audience starts leaving, and you miss out on everybody hearing your call to action.
The main thing to remember when giving a presentation is to appear confident, even if you don't necessarily feel it. What impression are you trying to give to your audience? What do you want them to take away from your presentation? We're only human and sometimes mistakes do happen, but by following the points above, pointless presentation blunders can be avoided.
Get a solid foundation in Project software to create solid, resilient project plans.
You don't need prior experience with Project: just be able to use a PC with Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft Project Advanced
The Advanced course takes you to a level that will put you in complete control of your projects.
You should, of course, be fully conversant with the skills and concepts taught in the Introduction course.
Become a Visio master with our two intensive but very easy-to-follow CPD certified Microsoft Visio courses.