10 Presentation ‘Sins’: Are You Guilty?

Many of us have heard that 99% of presentations are bad and not effective. This article will outline the 10 most common reasons why so many presentations are so bad, and suggest how to avoid these common mistakes.

1. No clear message- When preparing your presentation, you must make sure you are clear on what your objective is. It may be to just inform, to advocate a point of view or you are seeking an approval. Whatever it is, make sure you are clear why you are giving the presentation. If you start with the end in mind the rest should be easy.

2. Your slides are boring- Unfortunately 99% of presentation slides are really bad and will not be able to grab the attention of the audience. Nobody likes to look at page after page of hardly visible text on the screen, which the presenter is reading like a story book. Generally, less text works better. Simple text with powerful images work best. Remember the slides are there just to help you as visual aids, do not rely on them. You are the ‘star’ who needs to ‘wow’ your audience.

3. Not enough material/content- Sometime your presentation fails due to insufficient content to make a convincing case for the audience. For example, you did not provide enough evidence to back up your argument or point of view. Another example would be a new business proposal which did not include risks and the mitigating contingencies you will put in place.

4. Too much material- Just as bad as not having enough material is having too much material covered in your presentation. Firstly, people have a very limited attention span that rarely exceed 20 minutes. Secondly, having too much material to cover will make it harder for you to highlight the key message or objective of your presentation.

5. Monotonous voice- Nobody enjoys listening to a robot. You need to modulate your voice so that there are times when you raise your voice to emphasise a point and there are times you pause and say nothing, to give your audience time to absorb what you just said. There are times you will speak quickly and times when you will speak slowly to highlight a point in your presentation.

6. Not rehearsing- The vast majority of people do not bother to practice giving their presentation thinking that they are already quite good at it. Unfortunately, they are not! And that probably includes you too. Even the late Steve Jobs spent a lot of time rehearsing his legendary presentations. Take the time to practice and make it a habit. It will make you comfortable with the material and make you far less nervous. This will create confidence that the audience will be able to spot and makes you case stronger. Alternatively, if you do not practice, you will appear less confident and you will not be as convincing.

7. Complicated language- Depending on your audience use language that is as simple as possible. The less the audience has to think about what you are trying to say the better. Avoid jargon and complex terminology unless you are speaking to a room full of experts. Use simple words and short sentences, your audience will appreciate it.

8. Not getting to the point quickly- People hate waiting. Try to get to the point of your presentation quickly. Often it is best to tell them up front what the objective of the presentation is at the start of the presentation. Also another tip is to tell them how long your presentation will take before you begin, this will put the audiences feeling of anxiety at ease. Unless you are told how long a presentation will take, your audience will be speculating and wondering when you will get to the point.

9. Poor structure- To be effective your presentation needs to be properly structured for the objective you are trying to achieve. Like any good story, it will need a start, middle and an ending. A good basic structure is to start with an introduction of the problem or issue you wish to address, and then go into the implications for the audience of the issue. Only then do you go into introducing the solution and also address any possible concerns relating to the proposed solution. Finally, you have a call to action, what you want the audience to do. This is just a basic example; the main point is that you need a logical flow in the structure of your presentation.

10. Giving out hand outs too early- A common mistake many people do is to give copies of their slides before the present. This is a guaranteed way of ensuring the audience will not listen to you because they will be busy reading your slides and they can read much faster than you can present. They will be on your fourth slide when you are still on the contents slide. Give your hand outs at the end of the presentation so that you will have their full attention.

Always remember these 10 sins of presentations and you will be on your way to becoming a better presenter who will always grab the attention of any audience.