Advertising
Advertising

10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

Presenting to the boss can turn highly talented, intelligent and creative professionals into nervous, jabbering, sleepless messes — but not if you know the key mistakes to avoid.

The strangest analogy I’ve heard was from a former colleague of mine who, after presenting to the CEO for the very first time, left the office looking rather pale. On asking her how it went, she replied by saying, “Well, I’m not too sure. You see, it started off well; he was smiling, attentive, and very polite, but it felt like I was meeting with my gynecologist in that I would soon be leaving the room feeling a little violated.”

Sometimes, a good way to learn is through knowing the mistakes others have made before you. With that in mind, here are my top 10 presentation tips from both my personal and professional experience.

1. Don’t “sit on the fence”

There really is nothing more annoying than listening to someone drone on and on for 20 minutes, drowning you in data and facts, when it’s perfectly clear that they aren’t committed to the topic in terms of making it clear where they stand on it. Take a position, stand by it, and make it clear which side of the fence you are on.

Don’t sit on the fence. Otherwise, you really will get some seriously painful splinters.

2. Lose the attitude

All day long, your boss deals with people who are trying to look good, impress them, or simply suck up to them in some way. It’s not very attractive, and even though it’s the essence of many business presentations, the really good leaders find it tiresome — they don’t need their egos stroked. What your boss wants from you, more than anything, is to see the real you; so tell it as you see it.

Don’t give the “corporate spokesperson” speech. Let them see the real you; that means losing the jargon too.  

Advertising

3. Skip the small talk

Your boss doesn’t have time for small talk, so make sure you get straight to the point. Don’t be like a comedian and save the punchline for the end. Deliver your key message straight away and do so with impact.

4. Don’t just present

I really don’t know anyone who actually enjoys the process of being presented to. Most people don’t have the time, attention span, or patience to simply sit there listening to someone read bullet-point slides.

Craft a conversation instead. Get them really thinking. Ask them questions. Help them to use their imagination. If appropriate, challenge their perspective — don’t just accept theirs because they are the boss.

5. Surprise them

I can promise you that for every 10 presentations your boss endures in a week, all 10 of them will be very similar to each other in most respects. You have an amazing opportunity to inspire, enlighten, and engage your boss, so please don’t waste it.

Tell them powerful stories, use props or provocative slides, make them curious, make them laugh. In short, be creative, dare to be different, and surprise them in some way.

6. Help them to feel something

Most business presentations are really boring.

Don’t just talk, but try to really connect with them emotionally by asking yourself “what do you want them to feel?”.

Advertising

7. Don’t make them read

The very last thing your boss wants to do is to read your slides or report while you are talking at them.

It’s not a presentation or conversation if they are forced to read. It’s simply you making them read and they won’t thank you for it.

The spoken word elicits a far greater effect than the written word. It’s your job to breathe life into your report, update, or idea, and you will never achieve that by simply making them read it.

8. Make them look good

It’s human nature for each of us to want to look good and to impress our audience when presenting; that self-imposed pressure is often the greatest cause of anxiety many professionals experience.

When all you can think about is how well you must perform and how much your reputation is at stake, you are making it all about you rather than your audience.

Focus instead on how you can help your boss and how you can make their life, job, department, or company better and stronger.

9. Be playful

Remember when we were small children and we asked our parents if we could go outside to play with our friends? Often, one of the first responses you would hear is “Yes, but play nicely.”

Advertising

When it comes to presenting, playing nicely doesn’t mean fooling around or making jokes. It just means not taking yourself so seriously, lightening up, relaxing a little, smiling, and having a sense of humor.

Your boss really is human too, so “play nicely” with them.

10. Get out of your head

That doesn’t mean smoking or consuming some mind-altering substance before you present — it means being in the room rather than in your own head.

Many professionals make the mistake of not quietening the noise in their minds before they present to the boss. They enter the room with their minds furiously popping thoughts around like a popcorn maker.

“I hope they don’t ask me a question I can’t answer.”

“I bet I’ll mess this up.”

“I wish I’d done more research on this.”

Advertising

“What if they don’t agree?”

Staying in your head like this serves no useful purpose to either you or your boss.

Your job is to be completely present in the room as you speak. That’s the only way you will connect with your audience. You can achieve that by simply taking a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, meditating to calm the noise in your head, and pausing and smiling before you speak.

Have you made any of these or other mistakes that we could all learn from? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/

Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

More by this author

man presenting at a conference 8 Ways to Stop Presenting and Start Connecting 2 men and a woman in a meeting 6 Persuasion Strategies To Help Others And Get What You Want woman speaking in public using microphone 4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum 7 Ways To Unleash Your Presentation Genius 10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

Trending in Career Advice

1 The Lifehack Show: Standing Out in Today’s Job Market with Dr. Julia Ivy 2 Clueless On Your Career? Sabbatical vs. Career Break 3 10 Essential Career Change Questions To Ask Yourself This Year 4 10 Job Search Tools Every Jobseekers Need To Know About 5 If You Have This Key Behavior, You’ll Be More Successful Than 90% Of People

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

Advertising

2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

Advertising

It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

Advertising

7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

Advertising

10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Read Next