It’s easy to be critical of other people’s presentations when we are the ones sitting in the audience. But, if you are not used to public speaking, making a business presentation is not at all easy. There are many traps that a presenter can fall into. Most of the mistakes that people make when they are presenting are very common. Many presenters will have made one or more of these mistakes at some point. Here are ten of the most common business presentation mistakes.
1. Overuse of Visuals
You can ruin an otherwise good presentation with poor visuals. PowerPoint slides and graphs should illustrate points and reinforce the message. They should not overshadow the speaker. Common mistakes with PowerPoint slides include overcrowded slides and the overuse of slide animations. Slides should contain bullet points, not long sentences. The content of your presentation should be what impresses the audience. Not your clever animations and slide transitions.
Starting a presentation late will never get you off to a good start. It’s discourteous to your audience and it makes a very bad impression. Overrunning the allotted time slot will also annoy the audience. People will have organized their day so that they can be at your presentation. They will not take kindly to you disrupting their plans because of your poor timekeeping. When you are making a presentation, always arrive early. Make sure that you leave time for questions at the end of your presentation as well.
3. Information Overload
Trying to cram too much in is another common mistake people make with presentations. People can only take in a limited amount of information in a short space of time. Stick to the headline points in a presentation. Give yourself time to pause for breath, and your audience time to take in what you are saying. Give your audience handouts that contain the detailed facts and figures. They can then read the handout later at their leisure.
4. Equipment Malfunctions
Malfunctioning equipment causes delays and it will frustrate your audience. Check all your equipment before you stand up in front of the audience. Check that your laptop will work with the projector in the room that you will be presenting in. Make sure that your laptop is on and your slides are ready to go. No one wants to watch you plug in the cables and fiddle around with the equipment. They want to hear what you have to say.
5. Keyboard Gymnastics
If you are using slides or demonstrating software, don’t flick through screens too fast. Make sure that you allow enough time for your audience to take in what is on the screen. Rapid switching from one screen to the next is going to confuse the audience. You will be able to follow what’s going on because you know what each screen contains. Your audience, though, will be getting dizzy trying to keep up with your keyboard gymnastics.
6. Bad or Inappropriate Humor
A little bit of humor can break the ice and put people at ease. Bad, or inappropriate humor, though, will always fall flat on its face. Making humor work in a presentation is harder than it looks. Some people can do it. Other people who try humor sound wooden and forced. If you are confident that you can make people laugh, go for it. If you are not confident about your comedic abilities, though, it’s best to leave the jokes to the comedians.
7. Too Much Jargon
Make sure that you pitch a presentation at the right level for your audience. Remember that not everyone knows what all the latest buzzwords and jargon mean. Even if you are presenting to an audience that will understand it, too much jargon can get very boring.
8. Lack of Enthusiasm
If you sound bored, your audience will get bored. You need to inject some life into a presentation to keep your audience hooked. Some people talk in a monotone voice because they are nervous. If you do not make presentations very often, try practicing in front of friends and family. Or, record your presentation and play it back it yourself. The delivery of a presentation is almost as important as the content.
9. Lack of Clarity
Remember that some people find it difficult to follow presentations. Some people may also lose concentration during a presentation. And, yes, some people may even doze off. What you don’t want is anyone walking away from a presentation asking themselves “What was that all about?” The best way to avoid this happening is to clarify your presentation at the beginning and the end. First, tell the audience what you are about to explain to them. Then, go through your presentation. At the end of your presentation, summarize what you have told them. Then, leave the floor open for questions.
10. Lack of Preparation
The biggest mistake that presenters make is they don’t prepare for the presentation. Prepare your presentation well in advance. Practice the words, run through all your slides, and check all your equipment. Practice and preparation will help you avoid most of the common presentation mistakes. Making a business presentation is not too far removed from the performing arts. No performer would put on a show without rehearsing it first. So, don’t try to make a business presentation without practicing it first.
You don’t need to be a polished performer to make a great business presentation. You don’t need to be as confident as an Oscar-winning actor. If you have good content, and your delivery is real, your audience will forgive you for a few mistakes. What people dislike the most, though, is lack of preparation. People will have given up some of their time to listen to you. In return, they will expect you to be well-prepared.
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This has been a JBF Business Media production.