I am a professional speaker, and I have given thousands of presentations in the last 28 years, and I have seen hundreds of people give presentations. I am sure you have too. Most presentations I see are awful and boring. Why? I believe the people who speak, don’t know what they don’t know.
Here are the biggest mistakes I see people making, so that I can help you can speak in front of group and knock it out of the park instead of having people being bored to death. You want to have a killer presentation, not kill the audience.
Speaker Mistake #1: Thinking the PowerPoint is their presentation. Let’s be clear- the PowerPoint is supposed to be a tool to illustrate the key points of your presentation, not all of your points. Most speakers have too many slides, too much information and too many points on their slides. Keep in mind your presentation is meant to inform, not overwhelm people with data. Use slide sparingly to reinforce points that need an illustration. I am begging you- please don’t read from the screen- your audience can read.
Speaker Mistake #2: Not starting out not with a bang, but a whimper. We live in a world of instant gratification and entertainment. You can watch something instantly on any device. Then we sit people in a meeting room all day in hard plastic chairs and expect them to be entertained. Start out your presentation with a story, and analogy, a quote or statistic. Shock them, surprise them, provoke them or make them curious. I believe you must get their attention in the first few minutes or you will lose them, and they won’t come back. Their bodies will be sitting there but their minds will be disengaged.
Speaker Mistake #3: Thinking it is about you. Many people when they are speaking think it is about them. I am sorry it is not about you. The reality is great speakers are audience centric and have a desire to help their audience. So ask yourself- what is it that the audience wants to know? Where is their pain and how can you help relieve it? Find out in advance who they are and what they want. Make it about them not about you.
Speaker Mistake #4: Not having a sense of humor. Too many speakers are just too darn serious! Yes, I know sometimes we are talking about a serious topic, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have some sense of humor. Proof of this point is that eulogies even though they are at funeral often contain a funny story or two about the dearly departed. Humor makes you more listenable, entertaining and relaxes the audience and makes us all human. One other tip- don’t use jokes. They are often lame and if you bomb, you presentation can go south quickly. Use real stories that are humorous and reinforce a point. Smile at the audience and have a pleasant relaxed demeanor. The audience will smile back at you and relax too.
Speaker Mistake #5: Uh, like, having presentation umm, full of verbal filler words. Far too many people don’t realize they are saying way too many ahhs and umms. If your presentation is full of filler words, the audience will notice that more than the message. If you want to improve, record yourself giving a presentation, and then count the number of filler words you use. At Toastmasters clubs across the world, people practice giving speeches and then after that a “Umm counter” tells them how many filler words that had. This creates conscious awareness and people get better at not using them.
Just by following some simple guidelines you can give a great presentation that will be memorable and fun, both for your audience and you.