Emma Bannister (pictured below) the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book ‘Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations.’ In her latest column for B&T, she offers top tips to ensure your next presentation doesn’t tank…
When you’re the one up the front of the room, clicker in hand, it can be hard to see your own mistakes. Many of these common presentation mistakes go undetected because audiences are too polite to critique. Luckily for you, today we are going to reveal all the ways your presentations are going awry. Here are five presentation disasters to avoid:
- Bored Audience Syndrome
The worst presentation mistake, and sadly among the most common, is a bored audience. If they are unengaged and disinterested, as soon as you step off the stage they won’t remember a single thing you said.
Cause: Jargon filled script, cliched graphics, lack of passion and not adding value
Solution: Keep it short and sweet (10-15 minutes of speaking is ample). Be sure to speak clearly and simply, tailoring what you say to your audience’s needs. Use thought provoking, dynamic visuals and real-life stories and experiences to capture their attention and most of all, harness your passion!
- Lost in the slide-show
One minute, you’re cruising through your presentation, confident as anything. The next – the wrong slide comes up and you’re lost. You fumble through the next ten minutes, flicking backwards and forwards to find your place. It looks sloppy and unprepared.
Cause: A lack of practice.
Solution: Prepare, prepare – and prepare some more! The more familiar you are with your presentation, the smoother it will be. Check out the new ‘Summary Zoom’ feature in PowerPoint O365. You can navigate content based on questions your audience ask and you will be in full control.
- Nervous Nelly!
Even thinking about your presentation fills your belly with butterflies – and not the good kind. If public speaking is your worst nightmare and you feel less than confident in your abilities, you might be thinking: “What if everyone ignores me”?
Cause: An overactive imagination and a lack of experience
Solution: Create a presentation you are proud of, focus on what you know, and then practice it until presenting feels like second nature. Confidence comes from repetition. Buy your colleagues a coffee or sit your family down and deliver your presentation in front of them. Print out 3 slides and ask your practice audience to note down feedback on the slides / content they didn’t understand. Use this feedback to simplify or slowdown your delivery. Remind yourself that the chemical reaction for fear is the same as excitement – channel your brain to think you are excited – your ideas are worth sharing!
- You vs the Clock
Just as you are getting to the climax of your presentation, you look at the clock in front of you and realise you have one minute of allocated time left! You are sure to run over time or fail to complete your presentation.
Cause: Oops – you forgot to time your presentation!
Solution: Always time your presentation. That doesn’t mean reading it in your head and using your phone timer to keep track. Always practise by speaking the words out loud – it will slow you down. Stand up and walk around the room. And if you are inviting questions from your audience, don’t let them interrupt your flow – allow for question time at the end. Always, always plan to come in 5 minutes under the time you have been allotted.
- Technology breakdown
Your computer freezes, your video won’t play and just to top things off – the microphone keeps cutting out. Disaster!
Cause: Surprise technology fail!
Solution: Think on your feet. While preparation can be a help in avoiding technological breakdowns, sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent your equipment from running amuck. The trick is recovering quickly. Remain confident, calm and focussed. Remember your human to human connection. Prepare in advance what you will do in case of a tech emergency and be ready to put plan B into action. Your audience won’t panic if you don’t.
By avoiding these five common presentation disasters, you can gain a reputation as a practised presenter. The key to remaining ahead of the game is encouraging constructive criticism. If in doubt – ask your audience! What can you do better next time?