Seven mistakes to avoid when preparing a presentation
If you shudder at the thought of having to give a presentation, be sure to avoid these common faux pas and use these pointers to boost your confidence.
Do not start with the obvious. Remember to engage your audience immediately. Instead of opening with the standard, “Good afternoon, it’s so nice to be here,” grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds with a shocking statistic, a question, an observation from what was said previously or, if you are funny, a joke.
Do not bring a handful of papers with your entire speech written or typed. This is a signal that ‘this is going to be long’. As you read and move on to the next page, people become distracted as they try to count the pages, wondering how many more pages are left. Instead use a few index cards if you want to have quotes or other information easily available or a single sheet of paper. If you have a PowerPoint, use the notes section within the slides.
Do not write out your talk word-for-word. Instead, write down the points you want to make and speak from your points.
Do not skip practice. If you practice, you will become more comfortable with each round. Most people put in most of their preparation gathering the information, writing out and preparing the slides for their presentation. Your content is definitely important, however delivery is equally, if not more, important. Do not allow yourself to get so engrossed in content that you leave no time to practice. Allot practice time.
Do not practice wrongly. Most people don’t know how to practice. They might practice reading word-for-word the content they have written out, however this has major drawbacks; God forbid you lose your place on your paper — you would be lost. Not to mention, it is hard to connect with your audience when you have to devote so much attention to your paper. On the other hand, some people try to memorize their speeches. This is the worst thing you can do. Unless you are a trained actor who has learned to memorize lengthy monologues, you are putting yourself under undue stress. Plus, if acting is not your gift, you are apt to come across as wooden or rehearsed. Great speakers have a conversation with their audience. Practice talking to your audience, using the points you want to make as a guide. Each time you rehearse, allow yourself to say it a little differently. It’s a conversation.
Do not fill your PowerPoints with paragraphs of information. First of all, this is difficult to read; secondly no one wants to read it; and thirdly, no one wants you to read to them. Your slides should contain a graphic that helps you to make your point and a headline statement and possibly a few bullet points to guide you and the audience.
Do not diminish your talk with a weak ending. Endings like ‘that’s all I have’, ‘that’s what I think’ and even ‘thank you’ are not memorable. Leave your audience with a strong statement, story, anecdote or quote to remember.
If you would like to enhance your communication skills for career and business, send an email to request my free guide to develop professional charisma.
• Kim Welcome is the CEO and founder of Influential Voice. She assists businesses and professionals to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills to increase their impact and influence. Her clients range from the country’s largest and most prestigious employers to public figures and individual professionals. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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