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Presentation Tips: Common Blunders and How to Avoid Them

August 14, 2014 / Blog presentation do's and don't's, presentation mistakes, presentation tips

Presentations can be pretty stressful. Whether it’s because of nerves or a lack of preparation, some of us will commit mistakes at some point. Unfortunately, these blunders can cost you a lot. Don’t let a few blunders get in the way of the message you want to share.

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Inspired by an article by award-winning blogger Geoffrey James, we’re going to share some common mistakes and great presentation tips to avoid them.

Here are a few presentation tips to keep in mind to avoid any future blunders:

Don’t: Apologize or make excuses

You didn’t have enough time to perfect your PowerPoint deck. You arrived late to the meeting. Your equipment isn’t working properly.

When things go wrong, people tend to do one of two things: apologize profusely or try to save face by making a bunch of excuses. Both methods are not recommended when starting a presentation. By doing so, you immediately set a negative vibe for the rest of your presentation. When you say, “I’m really sorry about how bad my slides will look, I barely had time to put them together last night” or “I apologize for arriving late, I’ll just speed through my slides real quick,” you’re basically telling your audience that they’re about to see a bad presentation.

Do: Improvise and adjust accordingly

When something goes wrong just as you’re about to begin your presentation, the best thing you can do is act as if nothing has happened. Simply go about your presentation as planned and adjust accordingly. If you were late or needed to spend a few more minutes setting up the projector, try to condense your presentation to avoid asking for extra time. Take note, thought, that condensing your presentation is not the same as speeding through it. Shorten your presentation in a way that no key details will have to be skipped over.

Don’t: Read from your slides

Reading from your slides is the worst mistake you can make during a presentation. What’s worse is if you have to turn your back to the audience to see the screen and read from there. You will definitely lose your audience. Once notice what you’re doing, they’ll stop listening and just read the slides themselves.

Do: Review your presentation in advance

Remember: your PowerPoint deck should only highlight your key points. It should not serve as a teleprompter. If you’re afraid you’ll stumble during your presentation, make notes you can glance from as you address the audience. Keep the audience interested by showing them that you’ve mastered what you’re talking about.

Don’t: Talk too fast, start fidgeting, or say filler words

Not everyone is comfortable with speaking in front of an audience. Those who suffer from nerves will likely talk too fast, start fidgeting, or fill silent gaps with “um” or “like”. While you certainly can’t help how you feel, these nervous ticks will distract your audience. It will also distract them from grasping the message you want them to receive.

Do: Avoid nerves with some relaxation exercises

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can calm your nerves for your presentation. We covered them in a past discussion about public speaking anxiety. The trick to relaxation is good breathing. Find a quiet place to meditate at least thirty minutes before you’re set to present.

Don’t: End with a simple “thank you”

There’s nothing wrong with thanking your audience for their time, but that’s not the only thing you should leave them with. The ending of your presentation is just as crucial as the beginning. If you start strong, you should also end strong. Walking out of a presentation with a simple “thank you for your time” won’t help drive home your main goal. In a few hours, your audience will probably forget what your whole point was.

Do: Give your audience a strong Call to Action statement

Make sure the goal of your presentation is clear to your audience. Leave them with a statement they can consider and act on. Use language that’s active and straight to the point.

There’s nothing wrong with committing mistakes. The best you can do is learn from your blunders and use it to gain more momentum the next time you present. Take note of these presentation tips and convert your bad habits into expert techniques.

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Featured Image:  Clay Junell via Flickr