If you suck at presentations (and I’ll assume you do) here are some small changes you can make to your presentation style to improve it dramatically.
This is a list of the most common presenter mistakes and how to avoid them.
Overusing the laser pointer
The laser pointer is one of those things that we use because it’s there.
The pointer is great for advancing to the next slide, going backwards, and toggling the screen on and off.
There’s also a laser which allows the presenter to point to things on the screen.
Trouble is, the presenter often misuses the laser. They point at the “sentence” they are reading to the audience. They forget they are using the laser and continue to waggle it around the screen or in people’s faces.
Solution: Don’t use the laser. If you feel you need to point out something on your slides using the laser it probably means there’s too much information on the slide. Instead out of pointing with the laser, “point” with your voice.
A sure-fire way to kill your presentation and turn off your audience is to read your slides.
I know, you’re time poor these days, so it can be tempting to write everything out on your slides and just read to the audience.
Problem: Your audience isn’t paying attention. Your audience is getting nothing from your presentation.
Here’s why: When you present a whole heap of reading material in the form of projected slides, the audience naturally thinks the information is important and should be read. While they are reading they are trying to listen to you. The audience ends up getting lost because they can’t listen and read effectively at the same time.
Result: The audience retains nothing.
Solution: Practice delivering your presentation without slides. Be comfortable with doing your presentation without slides, then create simple slides which can support your delivery (not overwhelm it).
Additional reading: How to add impact to your slides
Want to look nervous?
Deliver your presentation with your hands behind your back.
Better still, look nervous and defensive by delivering with your arms folded across your chest.
These are all too common body positions for newbie or rushed presenters.
The problem with these closed body positions is that the audience immediately understands you are nervous and loses trust in you before you’ve even uttered a word.
Solution: Make sure you understand your topic well. When you understand your topic well (and that means in-depth knowledge, not just practicing a script) your body language becomes more natural because you are able to talk from memory. Conversely, if you are trying to remember a script word-for-word your body position is likely to be closed due to the tension you will feel as you try and recall the words you need.
No audience wants to be lectured to.
Not even audiences attending a lecture.
That’s because it’s downright boring… Therefore, hard to listen to.
Imagine the friend who talks only about themselves and never asks you any questions. How long can you stand to be in their company before you need a break? The same thing happens in a one-sided presentation.
Solution: Engage your audience by interacting with them. You are probably aware of issues they are having around your presentation topic, so ask them questions to draw them in to your topic. If you are doing a presentation about an organization restructure. People are probably frustrated. Ask them questions about their frustrations. Empathize with them. Relate your presentation to how some of these frustrations can be overcome.
Eye contact up, down, left, right
…Everywhere but at the audience.
Let’s be clear, if your are not making eye contact with your audience they probably don’t trust you.
Same as in a regular social exchange: If someone tells you a story, and looks down the entire time they are talking, they look like they’re lying.
Eye contact builds trust.
Eye contact helps to grow the relationship you have with the audience.
Eye contact shows you as a credible source of information.
Solution: Don’t focus on any single audience member for an extended period. When you look at your audience treat you eye contact as “roving” eye contact. Once you get over the initial hurdle of looking forward you’ll find that making eye contact actually builds your confidence.
Using cue cards
If you need to use cue cards while you are on stage where is your eye contact going to be?
That’s right!… Down at the cue cards.
I watched a TEDx presentation recently where a university student presented while holding cue cards. His presentation style was great. He was able to talk smoothly and conversationally with his audience. However, the constant looking down at his cue cards was distracting.
Solution: Know your topic very well. Memorize only the main points in your presentation. When you practice, practice saying your presentation based solely on elaborating on the memorized main points.
What do you think?