5 Ways to Screw Up A Presentation

1. Think only about what you perceive to be the audience’s expectations and prepare information about what you think will go down well with them.

Alternative: Be confident in your knowledge and expertise and deliver your insights and the results of your research and experience without adapting it to what you think they want to hear. What you think they want to hear is probably precisely what they don’t want to hear, as, no doubt, they’ve heard it a million times before. Don’t be afraid to be different, to be original, to be memorable, but don’t overdo it either – don’t walk into the conference room in a chicken suit for example or deliver the presentation in song (but if you do please record it and send it to us!)

2. Assume that you know it all and that your audience know nothing at all. Prepare a lengthy and highly detailed PowerPoint presentation with multiple graphs and charts displaying complex information that nobody either cares about it or understands but makes you feel rather intelligent.

Alternative: Think about the purpose of the presentation. What message are you trying to get across? Whatever it may be, try to have some kind of vision in mind that can keep your audience’s attention. Some kind of story that they can relate to and visualize so that it’s not the same old charts and graphs and business-speak. Be creative and try to involve the audience in your presentation as much as possible.

3. Read exactly what is written on the slides word for word. Not only does this strategy assume that your audience can’t read, it is also incredibly boring and predictable.

Alternative: Have a general structure in mind but don’t necessarily stick to it religiously. If you have to prepare a script then it’s better to write down headings or themes you will talk about rather than have every word written out for you. If you are not comfortable ad-libbing then practise, practise and practise some more. A fluid presentation that engages the audience and has the ability to be spontaneous is much more likely to keep them awake.

4. Have a negative mind-set. Don’t smile or interact with the audience. Assume that any questions that come your way are designed to catch you out in some way. Adopt a defensive posture and think of the presentation is a kind of trial you must endure

Alternative: Rather think of the presentation as an opportunity to display your knowledge and share information for mutual benefit. Engage with the audience – you don’t know it all, nor do they, but together you can really go places. Nervousness is perfectly acceptable but don’t be afraid – the audience are not there to judge you, they are there to learn from you so have positive and confident body language and deliver the knowledge you have to them.

5. Overload the auditory channels of your audience members by just talking and talking and talking some more. Ramble on in a monotone voice and react to each stifled yawn as an encouragement to continue in that vein. Ensure that the information you are passing to the audience is the same old formal business-speak containing power-words and meaningless statistics that they never tire of getting tired of.

Alternative: Learn how to communicate your message effectively. I read a stat recently that stated 25% of business professionals would forego a night of passion in order to avoid sitting through another boring PowerPoint presentation. The format of the presentation is important. The audience gets bored of having to sit through the same process all the time. Opening with a series of slides assumes your message has already been prepared and finalised and no matter what any audience member says or does, that message is unchangeable. So be more flexible than that, leave certain sections of your presentation blank as you await audience input. Come up with strong visual metaphors that the audience can relate to, don’t rely 100% on technology to tell your story for you, you are the storyteller, the technology is just the tool to help you do that. Imagine what type of presentation would engage you and try to find some way to be different and stand out from the million and one identical PowerPoint presentations that you have snoozed through during your professional life.