10 Most Common Presentation Mistakes

Avoid these basic presentation errors

1. Lack of Preparation

Too often a good presentation is ruined because the speaker has not taken the time to prepare. Preparation involves attention to both the personal and professional aspects of the presentation. Personal elements include body language, voice, and appearance. Professional aspects include researching the subject, organizing the content, and preparing the visuals. So, whether your presentation lasts for five minutes, five hours, or five days, you owe it to yourself and your audience to prepare thoroughly.

2. Poor Use of Visuals

Visuals should enhance your presentation, not detract from it. Most business people around the world today have learned how to use PowerPoint technically, but not professionally. Slides are overcrowded, unattractive, and inconsistent. They are loaded with lengthy, unnecessary words, written in sentences, instead of bullets. They include detailed information that should be provided to participants in the form of handouts. They underutilize the power of images. By taking the time to learn how to create powerful visuals, you will have a creative edge over the competition.

3. Inappropriate Humor

Off-color jokes could doom your presentation, because you are taking the risk of offending someone in the audience. Humor is culture-sensitive. What is considered funny in one part of the world may be considered private and taboo in another. So, avoid using humor in professional presentations, and consider other ways of breaking the ice and establishing rapport with your audience members.

4. Inappropriate Dress

The best advice is to dress conservatively so that the audience can pay attention to what you are saying, not what you are wearing. In your private life, feel free to express your individuality. In professional arenas, it can be disastrous to show your true colors. Like it or not, professionals around the world expect to see you dressed a certain way. It is best not to surprise them; otherwise they will be concentrating on your unusual appearance instead of your worthwhile message. Women in particular should be extra careful to present a professional appearance, and stay away from low necklines, short skirts, jangly jewelry, wacky hairstyles, and flashy colors.

5. Not Knowing the Audience

Custom-design your presentation to fit the needs of your audience. Find out the size and demographics of your audience beforehand. What are the ranks and positions of the people who will be attending? Who are the decision-makers? How much knowledge do they have of the subject you will be presenting? What is their native language? What other cultural expectations or protocol should you be aware of? By considering such factors beforehand, you increase the effectiveness of your presentation dramatically.

6. Non-Functioning Equipment

Since so much of our business world is dependent on technology, always check your equipment beforehand. There is nothing more frustrating than malfunctioning equipment, which can cause unnecessary delays and frustration. One solution is to have a printout of your visuals for yourself. That way, you will have the necessary information you need to deliver a presentation, even if you do not have the necessary equipment. If you solve the problem in this way, you will also gain the empathy and appreciation of the audience, who may have been in your shoes at some point in their own professional careers.

7. Starting or Ending a Presentation Late

Like you, the members of the audience have time restrictions. Respect them. In the United States and Canada, the mark of a professional is one who starts and finishes the presentation on time. However, time is viewed differently in eastern and western cultures. When traveling or presenting in an international context, consult a local partner or colleague to find out what is considered “normal”, even if it seems strange or differs from your own practices back home.

8. Using a Monotone Voice

Your voice is the primary means of communicating with your audience. No matter how interesting your material, if you speak in a monotone voice, you will lose your audience. An effective voice should be vital, audible, and clear. Of course, voice will be affected by age, gender, physiology, health, motivation, and past experience. Nevertheless, people of all kinds can learn how to make their voices more effective by learning about voice production, breathing techniques, vocal exercises and voice care. If necessary, work with a voice coach to learn how to improve your voice.

9. Too Much Material in Too Short a Time

If you have too much material, cut back or cut out. It is annoying and pointless for a speaker to try to rush through a presentation. If you have strict time restraints, be selective about what information to include. Pass on extra information in the handouts. Remove a number of detailed slides and keep only the most basic ones. Allow for the fact that you may have less time available to make your presentation due to interruptions, malfunctions, delays or other circumstances. By restricting the information flow, you will have a greater impact on your audience. They will remember more and be in a better position to speak to their superiors or take action on your recommendations.

10. Not Clarifying the Topic

Make sure you know clearly what you are expected to speak about. Second, don’t assume the audience knows what you are going to speak about. To avoid confusion, always include information about the topic of your presentation in your introduction. Get into the habit of saying, “Today, I’ll be explaining…” or ”My presentation today will show…” Do this without exception. Some members of your audience may also be global learners, who need to know the destination before they can follow along the detailed path of your presentation.