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.
“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]
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)