Let’s be honest. We all hate sitting through boring presentations and speeches. You know, the ones where the speaker doesn’t seem to know his or her topic well and chooses to read the PowerPoint slides. Or worse, they read their presentation to you from a piece of paper. This is one of the 5 most common presentation mistakes people make that hinder the audience from hearing, learning, and acting on the information given.
In my professional role I observe and coach many presenters, speakers, and trainers. I’ve coached students, new managers, corporate leaders, and even a few college professor. I’ve found that nobody is immune to making presentation mistakes that hinder their message, but there are 5 common mistakes I see over and over again. These common mistakes are a mark of an inexperienced presenter.
The good news is that the mistakes are easy to avoid when you know how they affect your presentation. Avoiding these mistakes can upgrade your presentation and speaking ability. It will also help you become more motivational and perceived by others as a more professional presenter.
Here are the 5 Most Common Presentation Mistakes
1. Reading the presentation. There may be nothing worse that a presentation that is read from a sheet of paper or PowerPoint slide. People don’t connect with a presenter who is reading a speech. Why? Because we see the presenter connecting with their words and not the audience. People do not want a presentation read to them. They want to hear what you have to say to them.
2. Getting stuck to a podium. The podium was created decades ago as a desk for the stage. It was a bad idea. It serves only to separate you from your audience and make you look overly formal. Get close to the people in the room or audience and remove any barriers between you and them.
3. Over formality. Related to mistake #2, coming across to your audience as overly formal can make them feel anxious. It also gives you very little room to make mistakes and to reveal your unique personality. Seek to be casual and real, not formal. Remember the best thing you can do is to befriend your audience and establish an emotional connection as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to smile.
4. Using the slide advancer as a prop. I see too many presenters holding their electronic slide advancer device in their hand and then use it as some sort of speaking prop. The slide advancer should be held in your hand in a way that it is invisible. Your audience should never see it. Know how to use it without looking at it before you start your presentation. Don’t hold it with two hands or use it like you’re texting on your cell phone. One of the biggest faux pas of presentations is to point the advancer at the screen when you changing your slides. I promise, it doesn’t help the slide change faster.
5. Using the same voice tone, volume, and cadence. The human brain is conditioned to lose focus and engagement when attending to a stimuli that is the same over a period of time. It’s just how we are wired as humans. It’s important that you modulate your voice tone and volume to keep people engaged. Be relaxed at times and intense at others. Be louder at times and softer at others. Also, you can vary your cadence by talking faster at times and slower at others.
Presentations are not easy to give, but they are also not as complicated as people try to make them. When we overcomplicate things we often lose who we are as a person and personality. Know your information well, relax, let your personality come out, and let yourself be the presentation, not your script, your slides, and certainly not that slide advancer.
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