Beware! Here comes a rant…
I was reading an article on a respected website about presentation advice.
The title sounded interesting, so I clicked. It announced “Presentation Advice from 20 Expert Presenters.”
This will be interesting, I thought.
Can you imagine my shock and horror once I realized most of the advice from the “experts” was about PowerPoint!?!?
…Advice as shallow as, “Make sure you use a good PowerPoint template.”
Seriously? That’s expert advice?
It got me thinking about all the crappy advice I’ve heard from “presentation gurus” over the years, and I decided to list the worst offenders in this ranty post 😉
1. Focus on the back of the room so it looks like you’re making eye contact
Yeah, no. You know what? The people sitting in front of you aren’t stupid and they can tell when you’re looking over their heads. Make eye contact with your audience.
2. Practice your gestures
So you want to look stupid? Do you practice gestures before having a conversation with a group of friends? Then don’t do it when you talk to the group of people in your audience.
3. Memorize your script
More stupid. You know when you listen to a narration or a podcast and it doesn’t sound natural?… It’s like they’re reading? That’s what you’ll sound like if you memorize your script. You’ll also set yourself up to fail spectacularly… Don’t do it!
4. Only take questions at the end of your presentation
This advice is okay in some presentations, but it’s crappy as blanket advice. Especially in longer presentations it’s engaging to have a back and forth discussion throughout the talk.
5. Make sure your slides can act as reference material
No, no, no! The slides are there to support what you are saying during your speech; To act as a minor player. If you need to give the audience reading material create some additional, non-slide-based handouts.
6. Just elaborate on the bullet points on your slides
Your audience needs a nap, do they?
7. Use cue cards
Bad idea. Cue cards break the flow of your talk, push you to look down, and encourage you to clasp your hands (closed body position). Save the environment and your audience, forget the cards.
8. Your sound logic is the most important part of your presentation
Dead wrong! Logic comes a distant third place to your relationship with the audience and the emotional buttons you push during your talk.
9. Don’t move around the stage
This is okay if you’re doing a five minute speech. Longer than that, the audience is going to start to think you’re a robot. Relax and feel free to move around. Just remember to move slowly and not to do it excessively.
10. What you say is the key ingredient
No it’s not. How you say it is far more important. If I deliver awesome content in a monotone with no body language the content is next to useless.
11. Your audience are your superiors so you should speak formally
Rubbish! A focus on formal language and “talking up” makes you sound unnatural and boring. Any persuasive presentation requires you to talk conversationally. You can still be polite when you are being conversational.
12. Clarify your understanding of every question before answering
“Are you asking if we can meet the deadline?” Good clarification if the original question was unintelligible, but an awful clarification if the question was “Can you meet the deadline?” Don’t waste everyone’s time with pointless clarifications.
13. Prepare your slides first, then practice
Perhaps the worst advice you could ever receive. The slides are your sidekick. They are there to support your talk, not drive it. Design your slides last, once you know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
14. Start strong
What does this even mean? Loud voice? Dumbbell lifting? Vague, make-your-own-adventure advice is as good as no advice. Instead of “starting strong”, start with something you know will engage your audience: make a promise of a benefit, tell a story about a hardship you are going to show them how to solve, talk about a bright future.
15. Remember the 6×6 rule
I know which presentation I’m not going to attend. 6 words by 6 bullet points on each slide is a total of 36 words. Enough said.
16. Emphasize data with a chart
Crapola! Charts are good to show a general trend. If you only have a few data points to show a chart is probably overkill.
17. Use a good PowerPoint template
This is an oxymoron. Show me a good PowerPoint template and I’ll show you a presenter who didn’t practice their speech before creating their slides.
18. 20-20 rule (20 slides, 20 seconds each)
If you’re following rules this exact, your presentation is not going to be fluid. Not fluid and it’s not engaging. Not engaging and you may as well be delivering to the wall.
19. Use Prezi to add impact
Replacing your slides with Prezi is like replacing your knitting needles with rotating blades.
20. Just imagine your audience naked
Seriously? Grow up.
Got any more? Let’s add to the list!