It’s impossible to win over an audience with a bad presentation. You might have the next big thing, but if your presentation falls flat, then so will your idea. While every audience is different, there are some universal cringe-worthy presentation mistakes that are all too common. Whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned presenter, you should always avoid this list of top 10 things your audience hates. Are you committing any of these 10 fatal presentation sins?
Unless you hold the title of “The Most Interesting Person in the World”, most people won’t care to sit through 10 slides of your company mission and history. Why? You haven’t given them a reason why they should care about what you have to say yet. The first few minutes of a presentation are the most crucial since your audience will be deciding then whether you’re worth paying attention to or not. Start your presentation with a quick introduction as to who you are so they have some context and then reel them in with a compelling opener.
Fact: you won’t score audience points with a data dump. The only way you can deliver a memorable presentation is if you appeal to people’s emotions. You might impress in the short-term with your company’s growth in sales but your audience will walk away remembering how they felt. This is where the power of storytelling comes in because people remember stories, not facts. Stories strengthen your idea by connecting you with the audience, putting them into your mindset, and making your topic more relatable.
Poor presentation flow will quickly lose your audience’s attention. People will have a tough time understanding what you’re saying and rather than trying to decode you, they’ll just tune you right out. It’s easier to get your point across when a presentation has a natural flow and the content order makes sense. When working on a presentation, outline your content and the order that it appears first so that you can get a sense of whether it flows logically. This outline will act as a roadmap when you start hammering out your slides.
Transitions and animations can create emphasis and drama but using too much of them is annoying. Points flying in and out not only distracts your audience but it looks unprofessional too (it’s 2016 after all). The key is to keep it simple. Our short attention span says that we only have so much patience to sit through a presentation, so if you’re going to use them, choose one or two that are no-frills and stick with them the whole way through.
Many presenters make the mistake of putting all their points on the slides and reading them out loud like a script. It might help an unprepared presenter but your audience will naturally read the slides, taking their focus away from what you have to say. Eliminate the amount of text on each slide down to a few key ideas so your audience will have to listen to you to derive meaning and context. The visual presentation should act complementary to your verbal presentation, which should always be the audience’s main focus.
Nothing makes people tune out faster than a presentation deck filled with uninspiring charts and graphs. You’ll spend too much valuable time having to explain to the audience what they’re looking at only to find most people won’t remember what you said. You can make more of an impact by nixing the chart or graph altogether and presenting the key takeaways you want people to remember.
No matter what your topic is, don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor is a powerful tool in the presenter’s toolbox because it breaks the intensity of your presentation, provides a release for the audience, and gets them over to your side. You don’t need to be a comedian to make people laugh – know your audience, draw from relevant anecdotes that will appeal to them, and practice your delivery. Humor is a muscle and the more you train, the better you’ll get at it.
Your audience will take cues from you. If you’re not excited about your topic, why should they be? Enthusiasm is wildly contagious but it can only start with the presenter who sets the tone for everyone else in the room. If your topic doesn’t make you explode with excitement, identify something about it that does so that your natural passion and enthusiasm for it comes out. Don’t try to fake it by being overly dramatic – your audience will see right through it.
More information might seem better than not enough but according to the “Rule of Three”, people can only retain three points really well before their retention drops and they’ll remember less and less. Start by removing the clutter: each slide should have a clear focal point and any element – whether text or graphic, should make a strong impact. If something feels like an afterthought, redundant, or has no clear purpose, give it the boot.
Communication is a two-way street and while the presenter will be doing most of the talking, it’s important that the audience feels involved and not just acting as passive spectators. At the very least, engaging your audience will prevent them from dozing off. It can be simple gestures like eye contact, movement around the stage, or encouraging discussion during the presentation. The idea is that you’re providing another source of stimulation for your audience and keeping them focused on you rather than what’s for lunch.
Our experience and expertise tells us there are best practices and strategic tactics that contribute to impactful presentations. And then, there’s this list: red flags that are sure to take away from key messages and leave the wrong kind of impression. Keep in mind that as every audience is different, so is every presenter. We encourage you to customize your delivery and make it your own! Just don’t make these common presentation mistakes, and we’re sure your audience will walk away with more than enough things to love.