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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 December 2, 2018

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

    You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

    1. Connecting them with each other

    Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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    It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

    2. Connect with their emotions

    Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

    For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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    3. Keep going back to the beginning

    Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

    On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

    4. Link to your audience’s motivation

    After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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    Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

    5. Entertain them

    While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

    Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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    6. Appeal to loyalty

    Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

    In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

    7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

    Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

    Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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