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6 Secrets of Bad Presentations (and How to Avoid Them)

6 Secrets of Bad Presentations (and How to Avoid Them)


    Being nervous about a presentation is pretty normal.

    None of us want to deliver a bad presentation and we have all sat through enough horrible ones to know that it is possible.  Our worst nightmare is looking out into the audience and seeing a sea of glossed over eyes, people checking their cell phones and the rest counting ceiling tiles.

    This doesn’t happen by accident, so don’t let this happen to you! While there are no universal formulas to delivering a presentation, aside from the tremendous amount of advice and angles to deliver a spectacular one, avoid the following at all costs.

    Start by Disqualifying Yourself

    In an effort to say something, a person can  immediately disqualify themselves with one of the following statements:

    “I’m not exactly an expert on this subject”

    (Oh? Then why should we listen to you?)

    “I really don’t know what to say”

    (Then why are you up there?)

    “Ummmm… so… yeah….ummmm… my presentation…”

    (Speak with purpose! Don’t just open your mouth to say…something.)

    “I hope you don’t find my presentation boring”

    (This conveys a serious lack of confidence in your presentation.)

    This one, more than any other, is attributed to lack of confidence and nervousness, but these statements are credibility killers. Unless you’re using those as a specific lead-in to what you’re going to say, your audience will have already pegged you as a mediocre presenter (at best). To get you through this crucial moment, take a deep breath in and just start your presentation.

    Never Make Eye Contact

    This is a great way to let your audience feel disconnected from you. Look at the back wall, the ceiling, your shoes a gaping void in the universe, or just anywhere that isn’t your audience.

    Connecting with your audience requires you to at least look at them. Make eye-contact with a person for a few brief moments and then pick somebody else until you’ve made your rounds around the room. For the nervous types who hate making eye-contact, look at their foreheads.

    Don’t Bother With an Equipment Check

    Nothing kills the mood more than waiting twenty minutes for a presenter to work through their technical issues.

    Get to the presentation room at least an hour before people arrive and make sure any equipment you’ll be using is in good working order. Make sure to plan for the worst and always have a backup plan! Technology has come a long way, but it’s still not 100% reliable when you need it to be.

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    “Kind of” Know Your Content

    Uttering the phrases “I’ll put it together on stage,” “I kind of got it,” and “I get the jist of it” are surefire predictors that you will stumble through your presentation. It will come across sloppy, disorganized and unprofessional.

    Make sure that when you deliver your presentation, you know the content so well you can teach it to another person. Because in a way, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Also, be ready for questions afterward.

    Alienate Your Audience

    In high school, our communications teacher took us (a class  of 16) to a Microsoft conference, where they were unveiling Active Directory. During the keynote, in a room with over 200 people, the first thing out of the speaker’s mouth was, “I know there are students in here right now and that’s great, but this presentation isn’t for you.”

    Don’t do that, ever.

    Know your audience! Speak their language, their tone and their energy level – communicate with them, not at them.

    [Our classroom, by the way, was test piloting a new program that trained students to get their Microsoft certifications]

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    Ramble On/Ignore Your Time

    Go off on tangents, ignore your time and make sure to speak longer than for what you’ve been scheduled. This is one guaranteed way to disrespect the person/events following you and your audience who is waiting for you to finish. Unless, of course, everybody is on the edge of their seats hanging on to your every word. (*Hint – they will tell you to keep going if that’s the case)

    The one way around this is to practice, practice, practice… out loud! It’s always perfect in your head, but reality comes a knocking when you practice out loud. Refine your presentation until it hits all your major points within your time limit. Your audience will love you for it.

    In fact, the guaranteed way to avoid many of these, is to practice at nausea. Practice walking on to the stage, saying your opening line and delivering the entire presentation. Get feedback from anybody who is willing to listen. Doing so will put you in a better class of presenters – one that people will want to sit through.

    (Photo credit: Businessman with Dunce Cap in Corner via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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