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Top Problems Presenters Face (And How to Avoid them)

“To err is human,” the adage goes. While not completely skipping the latter half, let’s accept the fact that we, as humans, make mistakes. It’s completely natural, albeit embarrassing—especially when in public. The moral of the story is that you have to make sure it doesn’t happen, right?

There are lessons taught the easy way: anticipate the blunder and avoid doing it. Then there are those only learned the hard way, the ones you must experience first before you can say, “That shouldn’t happen again.”

Barring advice from more experienced speakers and presenters, presentation mistakes can either be of those. The rub, though, is that there are many things that could possibly go wrong that only those with experience can fully prepare for everything.

Here are the most common problems—and how you avoid them—that amateur and professional presenters alike may still experience.

Presenter Problems: Slide Issues

Slide Issues

There is a myriad of presentation design tips out there, so let’s cover only the basic/common ones.

Color contrast.  Keep your choice of colors contrasting: dark text on light background or light text on dark background. If it makes your text easily readable, then that pair—or trio if you have three colors—has great harmony.

Wall of text. A reading spree will bore your audience. Instead, a few simple, powerful words is enough to drive the point home and make an impact. If not words, a meaningful image will do the trick; poignant, nostalgic, rousing, etc., the more emotions the picture solicits, the better. The clincher? Either of those on a single slide for maximum impact.

Too many slides. Drag your presentation on and on, and you’ll bore your audience. Attention is a fragile thing. A good guideline to follow is Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule: 10 slides in 20 minutes with a 30-point font. That way, you’ll be able to punch in more points with fewer slides.

Technical Issues

If you’re not tech-savvy, then the following technical problems—or technological—will be the most complicated ones you’ll encounter.

Connecting to the projector. There are two areas for this blunder: Mac and Windows. First with the latter, most PCs and laptops that aren’t made by Apple have dedicated VGA ports, so you’re covered. There will still be occasional problems, like screens not displaying correctly—or at all—or distorted resolutions, but those are easily fixed with a little tinkering on the Display settings. If you’re rocking a MacBook, though, then chances are you’ll find yourself scrambling to find the extensions and adapters necessary to connect. So…

Presenter Problems: Technical Issues

Not bringing your own cablesIt would be prudent to carry your own gadgets to the venue: VGA adapters, additional USB port extensions, etc. Speakers will find bringing their own stuff is better when they learn on the day itself that the place isn’t fully equipped. Considering that Apple’s ports are, if anything, unique to everything but to those of the same brand, you can’t reasonably and practically expect every venue to have complete equipment. Of course, Windows users will find the practice time-conserving too. Bottom line: just to be safe, bring your own cables.

Videos not playingIf you plan to use videos during your speech, then you need lots of preparation before going onstage. If you’re using YouTube externally (switching from slideshow to Internet browser), secure a good Internet connection and preload the page; if you’re showing short scenes from a long clip, skip ahead to the relevant parts.

Linking is a different game though: You’re basically putting on your slide a “shortcut” button to a video in a specific file path. If you’re not using your own computer, then you need to transfer both presentation and video files and relink to make sure that the “shortcut” has the correct file path.

Freezing or crashingSometimes, it seems like devices have minds of their own, and speakers are forced to encounter a hurdle they can’t control—but can handle gracefully. In cases of computer meltdowns—a sudden hiccup may be tolerable, but a blue screen of death is hard to recover from—losing your cool is a no-no. Don’t panic. Instead, you can:

  • For a system hiccup, tell a few jokes, maybe something about technology, while waiting for it to resolve itself (heighten the suspense and kill the tension);
  • For a sudden crash, since you know it’s going to take some time, tell a story while the computer reboots; or
  • For a blue screen of death, well, nothing much to do about it but to restart the computer, tell stories and/or jokes (see the pattern now?), and just pick up where you left off.

The bottom line here is not to panic and/or just leave. Sure, it’s embarrassing, but handling the whole situation with dignity, and a bit of humor, will overshadow that little blunder.

The Importance of Proper Preparation for a Presenter

The talk itself notwithstanding, those are some of the most common problems presenters face before and during a public speech. But perhaps there’s a more common problem that is easily corrected but overlooked most of the time: lack of proper preparation. Most people don’t realize that this is the biggest enemy before anyone who undertakes an endeavor. It can manifest itself in many forms, including everything above. It’s also what separates amateurs from professionals.

Does that mean that professionals who make mistakes are amateurish? No, of course not. There are circumstances without a person’s reach, and those are the ones you must be careful with. Everything else, you learn to avoid with the right mentality, attitude, and dignity.

Resources:

Duarte, Nancy. “Five Presentation Mistakes Everyone Makes.” Harvard Business Review. December 12, 2012. www.hbr.org/2012/12/avoid-these-five-mistakes-in-y

Ezekiel, Rebecca. “10 Most Common Presentation Mistakes.” Presentation Prep. n.d. www.presentationprep.com/10-most-common-presentation-mistakes

Harvey, Jim. “5 Most Common Tech Problems for Presenters… and How to Avoid Them.” Presentation Guru. August 2, 2016. www.presentation-guru.com/the-5-most-common-technical-problems-for-presenters-and-how-to-avoid-them

Kawasaki, Guy. “The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.” GuyKawasaki.com. December 30, 2005. www.guykawasaki.com/the_102030_rule

Marr, Bernard. “The Deadliest Presentation Mistakes Anyone Can Avoid.” LinkedIn Pulse. October 30, 2014. www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141030071401-64875646-the-deadliest-presentation-mistakes-anyone-can-avoid?trk=prof-post&trk=prof-post

Newbold, Curtis. “Top 12 Most Annoying PowerPoint Presentation Mistakes.” The Visual Communication Guy. September 24, 2013. thevisualcommunicationguy.com/2013/09/24/top-12-most-annoying-powerpoint-presentation-mistakes

Olakunori, Giovanni. “30 Common Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” Larnedu. August 27, 2014. www.larnedu.com/2014/08/27/30-common-presentation-mistakes-avoid

Russell, Wendy. “The 10 Most Common Presentation Mistakes.” About, Inc. n.d. presentationsoft.about.com/od/presentationmistakes/tp/080722_presentation_mistakes.htm

“10 Common Presentation Mistakes.” Mind Tools. n.d. www.mindtools.com/pages/article/presentation-mistakes.htm

How to Bounce Back from a Presentation Meltdown

This is a guest post from Kalibrr.com.

Imagine yourself in front of a crowded room. The lights turn down low so that only the stage and projector screen are in focus. You hear murmurs and whispers from the audience, patiently waiting for the next speaker to talk about the importance of building your network. They’re waiting for you.

Your hands start to sweat. The room suddenly feels warm even if you’re already in front of the AC, and the index cards (a.k.a. cheat sheets) you’re holding are starting to moisten at the sides. You prepared for this talk all your life — well, maybe just for a couple of days — but the experiences you’ve gathered since the start of your career make up for it.

This is a common problem whenever you’re about to do a presentation: anxiety. But when you can’t tame that anxiety, guess what will happen?

You’ll freeze up. You’ll experience mental block. And, worst of all, you’ll have it right in the middle of your presentation, just as you’re about to make an important point.

There’s a secret weapon you could use to bounce back:

ABSORB.

It’s not just a word or an acronym. It’s a process conceptualized by Terry Gault, Vice President of the Henderson Group, an investment management company.

Let’s see how these six letters can keep us grounded:

A – Aware

1-ABSORB-Aware

First things first: be aware that something’s gone wrong. You’re in an awkward situation, so don’t panic. If you do, you end up choking, and embarrassing yourself in front of your audience even more. Instead, what you should do is to…

B – Breathe

2-ABSORB-Breathe

Panicking can make you forget to breathe, or start breathing too fast. In fact, worried pacing or shallow breathing contributes to more panic. Calm down and breathe slowly. Take two deep breaths, and smile so you won’t look too tense. Remember: the mind needs a good supply of oxygen to function well.

S – Stillness and Silence

3-ABSORB-Stillness-Silence

It’s best not to tell your audience that something has happened, or that you forgot what to say. Instead, keep quiet, and again, keep calm. Silence creates anticipation and lets your audience absorb information you presented. That should buy you a couple of seconds to…

O – (Consider Your) Options

4-ABSORB-Consider-Options

What are your best possible options to casually get back on track?

Should you skip the slide? Should you make a joke? Should you scan through your notes?

Our advice: scan through your cheat sheets without looking like a total fool for forgetting. Casually walk towards where you placed your notes (and, hopefully, a glass of water), take a sip of water while scanning through them, then put down the glass and scan again.

R – Respond

5-ABSORB-Respond

If you’ve figured out what to do, act on it quickly but casually. Talk slowly after a few seconds of awkward silence just so your audience could also get back on track with you.

B – Breathe again

6-ABSORB-Breathe-Again

Take another deep breath to eliminate any remaining anxiety. Swiftly evaluate whether your response was effective. If not, try another approach. But if it was, remain calm and celebrate your victory!

When presenting, losing your nerve can be inevitable. Letting this get the best of you is not.

Develop this strategy when you’re prone to anxiety during presentations, and find a way to transform that energy into a positive approach. Otherwise, you’ll keep running into mental blocks.

Master your presentation so that you won’t even need to look at the slides. All it takes is practice, practice, practice!

Kalibrr is an online job matching platform based in the Philippines with over 5,000 customers worldwide. Kalibrr’s vision is to connect talent to opportunity at scale. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more career advice.

Count from 6 to 10: A Quick Guide to Great Presentations

We’ve previously discussed how the numbers one to five can make your business presentations count. This was based off keynote speaker Stephen Boyd’s tips to create a presentation countdown. With our own take on it, let’s continue counting from number six to number ten.

6. Presenting after SIX o’clock P.M.

Business professionals work eight hours on a regular basis. After a long day, only a few stay later than six o’clock p.m. to polish their paperwork, web designs, PowerPoint slides, and the like. After all, we want to get back to our families and our lives, right?

Deliver your presentations as if you’re doing them after six in the evening. Embody the elements of fun, involvement, and learning to keep your audience awake. Treat your audience like close friends and family you’ve been longing to see. Sustain their interest from the beginning to end, no matter how late it is.

7. Seven Means Complete

According to the Bible, the number seven has three Hebrew roots: saba, shaba and sheba. These three biblical ideas are associated with oaths, perfection, and completeness. Whether you’re delivering a pitch to a potential client or discoursing a monthly report with co-workers, your PowerPoint presentation should contain complete data.

Providing evidence supports your argument or main idea. Maximize the use of graphs and charts, statistics, and other visuals for a more comprehensive discussion. Inevitably, your audience will have questions or clarifications which you can tackle in a Q&A session. However, it pays to address all of these possible questions from the beginning to make things easier for everyone.

8. Eight for Affinity

The number eight is drawn with two interconnecting circles. Lacking one circle, either at the top or at the bottom, means you have zero. Presentations are about making connections. Your business speech is useless without an audience.

Command interest by connecting with them on a personal level. You can best engage an audience by exuding a credible aura, by appealing to their emotions, or by challenging their intellect. Building networks after your business pitch is another way to solidify your core message, and get viable results as well.

9. Nine for Anticipation

Where there’s nine, an end is anticipated — nine is followed by ten, ninety-nine makes way for one hundred, and so on. Anticipating unforeseeable circumstances in your talk is a good presentation skill. Don’t make your audience tune out because you panicked or lost your train of thought. Always be prepared for whatever can go wrong in a speaking engagement.

Planning ahead increases your chances of foreseeing or dealing with such problems.

10. Perfect Ten

There’s no denying that the number ten connotes perfection. Ten is a rounded number, which is why our counting system is based on the power of ten. We rate things with one being the lowest and ten being the highest. Striving for perfection is the best mindset for succeeding in your business presentation.

Make sure that your PowerPoint design has the perfect font combo and title slide. Reinforce it with confident delivery and compelling content. Always aim for a deck that will get a perfect ten rating.

To Sum It Up

Use numbers six to ten as your guide for delivering fun, complete, engaging, planned, and perfect business presentations. Remember the importance of connecting to your audience, sharing complete and pertinent data, appealing to emotions, anticipating crises, and striving for perfection.

Need a PowerPoint deck to give you an edge? Check out our portfolio for inspiration, or contact our slide design experts for a free quote.

 

References

Boyd, Stephen. “Public Speaking By Numbers.” Speaking-Tips, August 17, 2011. Accessed June 10, 2015.
Count from 1 to 5: A Quick Guide to Great Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. July 14, 2015. Accessed August 27, 2015.