7 Common Presentation Mistakes to Avoid

by Glen Fahs on May 31, 2016

in Learning,Reflection

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When presenting to a group or an audience, we need to establish rapport with our listeners and have ways to engage them in the conversation. Instead, presenters often lose sight of the audience and become preoccupied with the material they wish to cover.

The key to success is to clearly establish the purpose of your presentation from the outset, proceed to your main points in an organized fashion, and keep your attention focused on the people to whom you’re speaking. However, best practices can also include what not to do, and I’ve learned what to do wrong the hard way.

In the hopes that others may learn from my experience, here are some of the most common mistakes presenters make:

  1. Misinterpreting adrenaline for sickness: Adrenaline is fuel, vital to enthusiasm. When you feel nervous, remember that adrenaline is your body’s way of getting you ready for an important event. As Ben Padrow and Elaine Cogan wrote in their public speaking guide, You Can Talk to (Almost) Anybody About (Almost) Anything, it is just a matter of getting those butterflies to fly in the same direction.
  2. Seeing danger in the audience: Realize your audience is rooting for you to be successful. Avoid talking about your nervousness to your audience as it will only serve as a distraction. Instead, fake confidence until you feel it.
  3. Overusing PowerPoints: PowerPoints can be great for presenting questions, directions and visuals. However, they are deadly if slides are dense with content and they can potentially interfere with the group dynamic. Remember it’s better for listeners to focus on you rather than on the screen.
  4. Standing behind a podium: The podium is an artificial barrier that implies your notes or talking points are more important than communicating with your audience. Even in the largest of groups it’s best to walk around, spontaneously expressing thoughts, asking questions, and showing appreciation for audience contributions.
  5. Talking for a long time: The longer you present, the more important it is to mix things up by facilitating group interactions, small group discussions, self-assessments and/or showing a short video.
  6. Looking straight ahead: Have the courage to make eye contact, not just with people in front of you, but also to your left and right and in the front and the back of the room. By doing so you will better create rapport.
  7. Stumbling during the opening or closing: Prepare and rehearse how you will start and how you will conclude your presentation. How you frame your presentation will immediately engage or disengage the audience. Those last few sentences may be the most important, as they have the potential to leave a lasting impression.

If you share your insights confidently and enjoy yourself, your audience will be applauding at the end and will probably even want to talk more with you afterward. Not only will you likely find that you’ve boosted your credibility as a leader and industry expert, you may even look forward to giving your next presentation.

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