Many of us have learned from our own mistakes—which is the hardest way to learn. I’m going to share some of the most common traps and pitfalls of speakers and what you can do to avoid them. Ahhhhhh . . . this allows you to plan and deliver your next presentation with less stress!
The 10 biggest mistakes include:
1. Not analyzing your audience. You’re almost guaranteed to embarrass yourself if you walk in to present without figuring out who your audience is. For example you need to consider:
- How many people will attend?
- What do they already know about your topic?
- What are their general demographics? (Age, gender, education level, occupation, etc.)
- What is their attitude about your topic?
- Why are they attending your presentation? (Forced to, want to learn something, etc.)
Download a 22-page guide and checklist (The Art of Effective Presentations).
2. Not knowing your purpose. As silly as this sounds, it happens too often! Decide, upfront, why are you speaking. Is it to:
- Sell something
Without this basic foundation, your presentation is likely to ramble all over the place leaving the audience wondering, “What is the message?”
3. Cramming in too much information. We’ve all heard the KISS principle. Keep it simple and your audience will love you! What is your absolutely essential point that you want to get across?
- What are your supporting points? (Three is ideal.)
- Avoid throwing in the “kitchen sink”! It’s tempting to add more and more content. Don’t fall into that trap. Keep asking yourself, does this add or detract from my main point(s)?
4. Choosing the wrong visual aids. Ask yourself, “What will enhance my presentation?” If a visual aid will make your point more clear or memorable then use it. Many speakers wouldn’t imagine speaking without PowerPoint slides. There are a multitude of choices when it comes to visual aids. Once choice is to use nothing if that gets your main point across the best.
5. Death by PowerPoint. Audiences around the world are fed up with boring PowerPoint slides. I can’t think of too much worse than beginning a presentation with a slide that is full of bullet points and text. This confuses the audience! They aren’t sure if they should read the slide or listen to you. Keep the slides extremely simple. One of the best books on this topic is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.
6. Not practicing. This is the biggest sin of all! Many presenters believe that if they’ve put their ideas into a PowerPoint slide that all they have to do is click through the presentation and their work is done. Wrong! Nothing . . . nothing takes the place of practice. Practicing out loud or recording yourself is worth its weight in gold!
7. Not doing your homework. Here I mean taking the time to know the essentials of your presentation:
- Where will you be speaking?
- How will attendees be seated (classroom style, lecture hall, round tables, chairs only, etc.)?
- How early can you get into the room to set up?
- What equipment will be available to you?
- Will someone introduce you or will you introduce yourself?
- Will there be someone available to assist with technology issues? (This is a very frequent issue.)
- And so much more . . .
8. Poor delivery/appearance. How will the audience be dressed? (Casual, business casual, jeans, coat and ties . . .?)
- The rule of thumb is to dress one notch above how the attendees will be dressed.
- Looking your best will give you that added boost of confidence.
- Using good eye contact will keep your audience engaged. You appear more confident when you include everyone in the audience—you do this best by using eye contact as you sweep the room with your eyes.
9. Going over time. Please don’t do this. If you were asked to speak for an hour, be sure to stop before the hour and allow time for questions and answers, if appropriate. Most listeners appreciate ending on time or a few minutes early. It’s painful to be trapped in a chair beyond the scheduled end time.
10. Not using a summary or conclusion. Have you ever attended a presentation where the speaker stops after the last point and ends abruptly? “Thank you.” It leaves the audience feeling confused. A short but powerful conclusion will make you look like the professional that you are. Reinforce what your message is all about—inspiring, calling to action, entertaining, etc.
For more information, please register for my free upcoming webinar: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Presenters Make, December 17, 10:00 – 11:00 MDT.