When we are on stage in front of an eager audience, we are in a fortunate position of being able educate or entertain out audience with whatever knowledge we wish to share with them. However being in this position means we have a responsibility to deliver a compelling, thought provoking speech or presentation which moves our audience.
If like me you have seen lots of terrible presentation then you will be all too familiar with the following presentation mistakes I am about to share with you. At Succeed Through Speaking we suggest that you avoid making these mistakes or your reputation may be on the line…
Talking about yourself
When you begin a presentation talking about yourself, why you are so important or how much your business has made this year, chances are your audience will be thinking ‘so what?’
Despite what you and your ego thinks, a presentation should never be about you. You need to help your audience understand what is in it for them, i.e. why should they spend the next 15 minutes or an hour listening to you. To engage your audience and make them curious about what you have to say, your goal should be to educate or entertain them or ideally a combination of the two. Once you have them hooked, it is ok to spend a minute or two promoting your credibility but a presentation should never be seen as a chance to show off what you have achieved.
One of the biggest mistakes speakers make is trying to cram too much information into a presentation. If we are passionate about our topic, business or project or really want the audience to learn a lot from our presentation we fall into the trap of wanting to share as much with them as we possibly can. However, there is only so much information our audience can take on board at any one time. Another problem of doing this is that because we want to fit as much into our 15 minute time slot as we can we tend to speak really fast which subsequently makes it even more difficult for our audience to retain what we have talked about.
So what should we be doing? I recommend choosing a few key points that you want to get across which all link back to your main theme our outcome from the presentation. If you really do want to get the information across to them, create some handouts or information packs for them to take away and read in their own time.
Bad jokes and controversial material
I applaud people who are able to bring humour into their speeches and presentations but what I don’t agree with is telling jokes, especially if they are really bad jokes. There is nothing worse than telling a joke to an audience of people and then having it fall flat on its face. If this ever happens to you, do not in any circumstance laugh at your own joke. Acknowledge your mistake and quickly move on.
So if we cannot tell jokes, how do we inject humour into our presentations? The easiest way is through telling humorous stories from your own experiences or share stories you have been told from other people. The most important thing here is to know your audience and know what types of stories will be humorous to them. Getting a laugh from your audience will relax you, it will relax them and when they are relaxed they can retain information more easily.
Starting your speech by saying sorry is a big no in my book when you are delivering a presentation. You are there to delight your audience and if anything they should be thanking you. I’ve heard all sorts of apologetic openings in speeches; “Sorry I am feeling a bit nervous”, “Sorry if you cannot hear me at the back”, “I’ll try to get through this as quick as possible”, “I have to apologies this presentation is a bit slow”… Not only is this starting with a negative, but also your audience have given up their time to listen to you so make sure you prepare a great presentation for them and you have nothing to apologies about.
Lack of eye contact
Through everything we teach at Succeed Through Speaking, one of the underlying principles is that your full attention should be on your audience. One of the best ways to hold a strong connection with our audience is by maintaining eye contact with them. A lot of speakers struggle with this due to a lack of confidence or being nervous, but it is also down to their dependency on their slides, flip chart or notes. If we are not engaged with our audience, we shouldn’t expect them to be engaged with us or what we have to say.
To improve your eye contact with your audience you should avoid having a script or even lengthy prompts on your slides. I understand that it is difficult to speak for a longer period of time without notes so if you do have to use them, reduce them to a few words or bullet points so that you can be fully present and connected with your audience.
Speaking with a monotone voice
Far too many speakers I have seen will drone on and on and on and on in a monotonous tone. If you are one of these people, please stop doing it. Your audience will appreciate a little bit of variety in your voice and it may help them to stay awake throughout your presentation. I say this a lot, but our job as speakers, trainers and presenters is to educate or entertain our audience and our voice plays a huge part in this. If we combine a dull and boring voice with a poor structure, it will be very difficult to maintain an audience’s attention.
Instead of speaking like this, we need to vary the tone, pitch, pace and rhythm of our voices. You can start practicing this today in the everyday conversations you are having. Again, your audience will really appreciate it. Another way to become less monotone is to add pauses to what we say. Typically we recommend a short pause where you would use a comma in a sentence and a longer pause where you would add a full stop. This will help your audience process the information you are telling them, but it will also allow you to take a breath and gather your thoughts before continuing.