1. Failing to Prepare Properly and Rehearse Enough
Failing to prepare really is preparing to fail. This is probably the most common mistake I see and yet so easy to overcome. Steve Jobs was a master at making his presentations look easy and relaxed. The reason they looked this way is because he took weeks to prepare and rehearse them. You can never be too prepared. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed, spontaneous and conversational you’ll appear. Being properly prepared is one of the ways you ease nervous tension as well. Albert Mehrabian did a study and found that when two strangers meet, the one who was the most relaxed was perceived by both parties as being the one with the higher stature. It is imperative to be relaxed when you are presenting. Being prepared will help you know your material inside and out and will help you in the relaxation arena. Fill out the form below to download a copy of our Persuasive Model Outline so that you can be better prepared.
3. Not Knowing Your Audience
Again, you cannot ask too many questions when it comes to knowing your audience. You want to know general demographics, but you also want to know their level of expertise with regard to your topic. If they are new to your topic you may need to start off with some basic material before jumping into the high-level content. Is your audience happy about the topic you are going to discuss or do you have several people who are in opposition to what you have to say? Avoid using jargon unless everyone in the audience will understand it, and I do mean everyone. Ask yourself how you can help your audience? What information can you share to help them in some way? It’s all about what’s in it for them. The more you know your audience the more you can cater your talk to their interests. The better examples, stories and analogies you can use. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible to find out all you can about them.
4. Use of PowerPoint
I cannot say this enough. Your PowerPoint is not your presentation (it is an aid to your presentation) it is not your notes and it is not your hand out. Please do not confuse these three things. Your PowerPoint should be more visually stimulating with graphics and pictures that stir the emotions. Your handout should be more textual. This is where you want to have all the explanatory statistics and data and your notes are an entirely different thing altogether. The rule of thumb with your slide presentation is less is more, with your handout more is more. For information on how to put together your slides click here. For information on notes check out my blog post on how to use notes correctly here. Remember PowerPoint is a visual aid for your audience not for you.
5. Too Much Logic and Not Enough Emotion
A common mistake business professionals make is to load their presentations with facts, data and statistics and overlook the emotional aspect. The old adage facts tell emotions sell is true in any situation. We are wired to engage through emotion, not fact. We connect through stories, examples and analogies. When you are putting your presentation together it is far better to err on the side of too much emotional content than too much logic. If you want your audience to connect with you and remember what you have said, that is best accomplished through story.
6. Rambling, Mumbling or Pace too Fast
There is nothing more boring than listening to someone ramble on and on with no direction. This comes from not preparing properly. This is a recipe for disaster. It won’t be long before you are looking out at a sea of bored faces. Stick to three key points with supporting material. This will keep you on track and keep rambling in check. When preparing your presentation, ask if your audience really needs to know this? If you mumble or speak too fast, your audience will once again tune out. When they can’t understand what you are saying they begin to think of all the things they have to do. Make sure you slow down the pace and enunciate every word and every syllable. The larger the room, the more this is necessary.
7. Not focusing on the Audience
In order to build rapport, you must engage with your audience. I see people all the time focused on their PowerPoint slides, their notes, their flipcharts, whiteboards etc. and not making any eye contact with their audience. You wouldn’t pay attention to a friend trying to persuade you to go to a certain restaurant or see a particular movie if they were looking at the floor, ceiling or anywhere but at you. So why do presenters think their audience should do what they want them to do when they have never bothered to build rapport? Focusing on your audience also allows you to know what is working and not working in your presentation. If you look out and see several people sleeping, you may need to pick up the pace or provide higher level content or more basic content. You won’t know this unless you are engaged. It is a great idea to give your audience a roadmap up front of the journey you are going to take them on. The rule of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them” is really beneficial for both you and your audience. It helps them to know what is coming next.
8. Lacking Dynamism
Dynamism is created through your body language, facial expression, gestures and vocal inflection. Presenters who choose to hide behind the lectern are waging an uphill battle in creating the dynamic factor in their presentations. The lectern creates a secure barrier between you and your audience but the necessary gestures and body movement become much harder to do there. It is also much more difficult to build rapport when you are blocking one of you major energy centers—your solar plexus—from your audience. There are those people who come out from behind the lectern but strike a stone pose for the duration of the presentation. They never move, they have no facial expressions, no gestures and no body movement. As a result their voices are flat. Or there are those people who are continuously pacing back and forth. You can’t focus on the content because you are too busy watching them wear a hole in the carpet. They are gesturing all the time with no impact. The key to a successful presentation is to know the importance of your non-verbal communication and to have it support your message instead of detracting from it.
9. Failing to Prepare for the Q&A Session and Giving Another Formal Close
I am always amazed when speakers are surprised by a question that is asked during Q&A. Thinking of questions that your audience might ask as a result of hearing your presentation should be part of every presenter’s preparation. If you take the time to come up with the hard questions beforehand, you will be prepared to answer them with confidence and thus come across with more credibility. Never, never, never close after the Q&A. Never! I can’t say that enough—NEVER. I see presenters who once all the questions are answered say thank you and that is it. This is not the note you want to close on. You want to deliver another formal close. The close includes the key points you discussed, the call to action and why your audience should want to do what you are asking them to do. Then you are free to say “Thank you for having me.” Never give up this valuable real estate. It is your last chance to let them know what you talked about and why it was important to them.
10. Neglecting to Have a Call to Action
Time after time I hear presenters who deliver information but have no call to action. Without a call to action your audience is not going to remember what you said. There is no reason for them to. It was interesting but no action was required. If you are delivering information only, ask yourself what you want your audience to do with that information and then ask them to do it. Perhaps you want them to deliver the information to their subordinates, or go online and fill out a survey based upon the information you delivered. Whatever it is make sure you include a call to action in every presentation.
People in business are just like everyone else. They want to be entertained. Public speaking is a performance art and a learned skill. It takes a lot of practice even for seasoned presenters to put on a great presentation. With time and practice everyone can be a great presenter. If you avoid the above pitfalls and follow The Presentation Pros EIEIO presentation formula (Entertain, Inform, Empower, Inspire and Over Deliver) you will find your are a more engaging and persuasive presenter and that’s what it’s all about.
Debbie Darling, ©2015 The Presentation Pros
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