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The Top Mistakes to Avoid When Delivering a Presentation

communication presentation public speaking Feb 02, 2022
People sitting around, looking at whiteboard with sticky notes

There used to be a time when if people gathered together, the audience would sit quietly and listen to the presenter. Of course, those days are long forgotten. With a limited attention span (which I understand, people have an attention span of 8 seconds…), it is hard to capture the attention of your audience without them grabbing their phone, looking out of the window, or thinking to themselves “get me the hell out of this bullshit.”

When we think of presentations, our brains often turn to TED Talks — dynamic, interesting and short talks with limited slides, no text, and really polished performances by the speakers. However, the reality in our workplaces ends up being far from it. Sure, the talk may make us cry, but not because we’re moved or inspired by the story, but instead because we are bored and disappointed that we spent an hour of our lives listening to Brenda from finance talk about the new invoicing system that everyone needs to know about.

I’m going to run through a few of the major mistakes people make when delivering a presentation and ways to improve for the next time you’re in the boardroom.

Death by (bad) PowerPoint:

There is nothing worse than horrendous PowerPoint slides. You know the presentations I’m talking about — a whole lot of text, black font on a white background, all in Times New Roman. It sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? How many times have you had to sit through something like this?

It needs to stop and it needs to stop right now.

You might be thinking, “how do we make PowerPoint presentations fun?” Well, just keep reading.

PowerPoint can be an awesome tool, but it is misused. Replace those really wordy slides with more dynamic options. Use pictures to demonstrate the point you’d like to make, and speak to it. Words can be really powerful as well, noting that your slides don’t need to include your entire thesis — instead, you can include one really big word on a slide to dramatically explain the key takeaway you want your audience to walk away with.

Reading the Slides:

I recall sitting through a presentation by a former colleague several years ago. The topic of conversation was really painful, so it was hard to maintain any level of engagement. But it only got worse when rather than delivering a presentation, she chose to read every word from every slide.

We read faster than listen. If you’re going to simply read everything from the slides, why bother forcing everyone to be in the same room?

The best tip is — don’t read. Having notes is totally fine. Notes will mean you will stay on track, but you don’t want to stand there and read directly from your paper or cue cards. Instead, refer back to your notes (which will be in dot point form) to spark the main points you’ll need to remember throughout your talk.

Monotone sadness:

I think one of the most painful things in an already painful presentation is listening to a monotone voice. We’ve all been there. Whether it was a boring teacher at school or someone in the workplace, it can be a big challenge to listen to a dry voice for so long.

Where someone’s tone doesn’t change, you almost feel like you’re falling into a hypnotic chant. Although that sounds like a yoga retreat, you don’t want to put your audience to sleep.

If you’re using notes, it’s handy to grab a pen and underline words where you want to include emphasis. This will help you to change the tone of your voice to keep things exciting, and it will help your audience to understand the more critical points they should pay attention to.

Ultimately, the test for thinking “is this going to be a boring presentation?” is to ask yourself “would I be happy to sit through this?.” If the answer is no, you know what to do.

Can I help you?

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About the author:

Theo Kapodistrias is a multi-national award-winning lawyer and keynote speaker, trainer, and public speaking coach. He is passionate about community involvement and holds several voluntary positions, including as the Executive Director of TEDxHobart. His keynote speaking, training, and advising business is designed to help professionals and business owners to be seen, be heard, and make an impact through their voice and through their words www.theokap.com.au

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