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Presentation Tip: 5 Things to Avoid in Your Introduction

You’ve probably read a great deal on why the introduction is the most crucial part in your presentation. It has two important purposes: to gain the audience’s attention and to motivate them to listen.

What if you failed to meet these key elements from the very beginning? Don’t compromise your speech credibility and brand reputation.

Break the bad introduction habits and start your presentations effectively.

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Here are five blunders that you should avoid:

1. Going Mainstream

A good majority of presenters begin their talk with, “Good morning. I’m here to discuss x, y, and z.” But this heavy-handed and dull approach is a quick way to lose your audience.

Why go mainstream if there are many creative ways to begin your discussion? Plan for something unique to impress everyone at the very beginning of your speech.

Tell a story or borrow a pertinent movie quote that complements your main idea. Let this perk up your listeners enough for them to say to themselves, “That line was from the movie xyz!”

Asking a rhetorical question also works in engaging your audience. It invites them to think about your arguments, making them active participants in your speech.

Another powerful way to open a presentation is by sharing relevant data that either look to the past or the future. Drop an idea like: “In ancient times, women’s status were defined by their relationship to men. At present, women have become more independent and are now making names in the business world.”

The comparison will make the audience perceive the topic in a new light and hook them further to your pitch.

2. Doing Equipment Checks

Checking if the equipment works exactly before you begin your pitch is another common pitfall in presentations. Although doing equipment checks is a good practice for speakers, it can become a bad habit when it eats up both yours and your audience’s time.

To avoid falling victim to this gaffe, arrive early at the venue and set-up the equipment few minutes ahead the presentation time. This gives you enough buffer in familiarizing yourself with the equipment and in running compatibility tests.

You don’t want the audience to see you rambling while troubleshooting technical problems. Make it a rule to check all the equipment even before your presentation starts. If possible, have an emergency back-up readily available.

3. Questioning People’s Ability

Presenters often make the mistake of starting by asking obvious questions that border on offending their listeners.

Posing questions to your audience can be a good start, but questions that insult their intelligence damage your reputation as a speaker.

Queries with obvious answers like “Do you know how to double up your sales?” or “Is there anyone here who earns more and works less?” are a few unasked for statements that can make your listeners cry tears of frustration.

According to Stanford GSB lecturer Matt Abrahams, ask questions that stimulate curiosity instead. Questions that inquire about a possible future or historical past are great alternatives to the obvious ones.

For example, “What would it be like if robots outnumbered the human population?” Here, the “What if” effect builds intrigue and gets your audience attention. Utilize the same refreshing tactic in waking up your audience.

4. Oversharing Company History

Sharing your company history at the beginning of your speech can be good at establishing credibility. However, doing this more than you should only consumes the time needed in explaining your main ideas.

Similar to talking about yourself, it can come across as bragging, which can make you lose your audience quickly. Your presentation isn’t about you, so it’s best to focus more about what you can offer to them.

The ideal way to impart your company history is by touching a part of it in the middle of your discussion. Look back and share a blast from the past on how you achieved and sustained long-term success.

This not only makes your listeners buy your idea, but also helps in making yourself worthy of their trust and money.

5. Admitting Mistakes

Starting with an apology weakens your credibility and sets the wrong tone.

After all, why would people listen to the rest of your speech if you spent your first few minutes apologizing? You’re only attracting a negative vibe, which kills the chance of leaving a positive impression.

If your discussion is facing inevitable hurdles such as scheduling delays, incompatibility of slides and poor room set-up, handle it with grace and don’t call attention to negatives.

However, there are rare cases where delivering a quick, sincere apology may be in your favor.

The key is to act decisively without affecting your message negatively.

The Takeaway: Start Your Speech Right!

The introduction builds up the overall flow of a pitch. It does a lot of work in making good impression and in keeping people interested throughout the presentation. Unfortunately, there are instances where some speakers lose their audience because of poor introductions. Avoid their fate and steer clear of intro blunders that derail your professional image.

Stay away from the mainstream self-introductions. Instead, think of creative alternatives like sharing a story, citing a movie quote, and asking rhetorical questions. Never do equipment checks at the beginning of your talk. It’s recommended to perform technical tests few minutes before your actual speech.

Avoid asking questions that can insult your audience. Go for questions that drive curiosity and interest. Sharing company history is another taboo. Focus more in discussing what you can do for them.

Lastly, don’t start with an apology. Keep your cool and maintain an upbeat tone even you’re under pressure.

Avoid these four blunders to gain and retain your audience’s attention from the beginning till the end. Looking for presentations with lasting impact? Talk to the right people and get started now.

 

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Reference

Abrahams, Matt. “Matt Abrahams: A Good Question Can Be the Key to a Successful Presentation.” Stanford Business. July 25, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2015. www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/matt-abrahams-good-question-can-be-key-successful-presentation

4 Speech Patterns that Downplay Your Business Presentation

Taking presentation ethics to heart may increase your speaking credentials, but your audience also judges your credibility based on your speech patterns.

Though these conversational behaviors are unintentional, they still derail your image, hamper your flow, alienate your listeners or, worse, downplay your business presentation’s effectivity.

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Here are four common public speaking habits you should avoid at all costs, along with their potential remedies:

1. Overusing Qualifiers

Qualifiers are words like “very,” “really,” or “somewhat” that emphasize or modify the degree of a statement. Though they limit or enhance the information presented, using them excessively weaken your message’s impact.

These modifiers are commonly used for hedging or expressing vague language. They’re useful in narrative writing, but have no place in professional presentations. Using this set of words lessen your authority and diminish the impact of your message. You can get away with it to make your statement sound more solid and credible.

Avoid overusing qualifiers because it only delays your main thought, shunning audiences in an instant. For example, saying “I believe we are the best ad agency in the district” can sound less appealing than “We are the best ad agency in the district.”

Don’t be hesitant to omit words or substitute them with more assertive ones. Be confident and direct to maximize your credibility.

2. Adding Question Tags

A tag question or tail question is used to confirm someone’s understanding or connect with another person’s thoughts or feelings. Short phrases like “Isn’t it?”, “Don’t you?”, and “Aren’t you?” are few of the common examples of this conversational pattern.

Adding these short questions at the end of your statement is not the best way to affect a conversational tone.  In fact, a study found that tag questions have indirectly adverse effects on audience’s perceptions of the speaker’s credibility.

This speech habit brings confusion to your presentation, sabotaging your message’s quality and making you seem in need of approval and validation. It can also lead to a misconception that you lack self-belief and knowledge on the topic.

Don’t let these speech fragments weaken your sentence’s ending. Think of other ways that can help involve people in the conversation.

Asking an independent question can be an effective alternative to tag questions. Transition your message with a follow-up question, such as: “This research is another breakthrough in the marketing industry. What are your impressions on this?” to better engage your audience.

3. Repeating Filler Words

Filler words are another verbal hiccup that undermine your public speaking reputation. They are short utterances or words that are added unconsciously to a sentence for no reason.

These include the dreadful words “Um”, “Well”, “You know” and “Uh”. Although they don’t have meanings, they still have an effect to your listeners.

Repeated and excessive use of filler words is the best way to lose your audience and weaken your credibility. This conversational routine can distort your message and distract people from what you’re saying.

Curb this bad public speaking habit by listing down your ideas prior to your business presentation. This lessens the panic, making you speak more comfortably and confidently.

Practicing speech pauses also helps overcome the “Um” problem. Pause to your advantage to give yourself some time to think and respond more effectively.

4. Up-Talking

Are you guilty of ending your sentence with a high vocal pitch? This practice is called high rising terminal (HRT) or up talk.

It’s a habitual pattern that makes a simple declarative sentence sound more like a question because of the rising intonation. Doing this leaves people an impression of you being weak and feeling inferior to them.

In a survey conducted by Pearson, 85% of research participants said that up talking indicates a person’s insecurity or emotional weakness while 57% of them believed that it damages a person’s professional credibility.

This implies that speaking in a very high pitch is discouraged especially when doing business pitches. When you make an important point like “Our sales are increasing,” avoid saying it like “Our sales are increasing?”

Ending it like a question only makes your statement tentative and uncertain. Your goal is to inform your audience, not to confuse them.

If you’re a natural up-talker, practice breathing exercises prior to your presentation. This allows you to relax and maintain your vocal range and speak with conviction without the rising intonation. Developing a sense of certainty. Learning how to communicate a sentence gives you confidence, so do it often.

Conclusion

It’s impossible to captivate your audience if they don’t see you as confident and credible. Bad speaking habits and patterns such as qualifiers, tag questions, filler words, and up-talking disrupt people’s attention and harm your credibility.

Excessive use of qualifiers delay and weaken a message’s impact. Break free from this habit by making your statement more direct. Adding question tags at the end of your sentence can make you look like asking for approval from others. Instead, ask them a follow-up question to catch their attention.

The dreaded filler words are one of the culprits to effective public speaking. Practice speech pauses to speak more comfortably and confidently. Up talking causes people question your certainty about a topic. Some breathing exercises might help in cooling you down and helping you avoiding speaking in high-pitched voice.

Eliminate these bad speech patterns to effectively deliver your business presentations.

Need help planning for your professional presentations? Book a meeting with SlideGenius. All it takes is fifteen minutes.

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References

“3 Speaking Habits That Are Damaging Your Credibility.” No Freaking Speaking. n.d. Accessed February 5, 2016. www.nofreakingspeaking.com/index.html/3-speaking-habits-that-are-damaging-your-credibility/

Marr, Bernard. “Want A Promotion? Then Don’t UpSpeak!” LinkedIn. January 20, 2014. Accessed February 5. 2016. www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140120061951-64875646-want-a-promotion-then-don-t-upspeak?trk=tod-home-art-list-large_0

“Hedges, tag questions, message processing, and persuasion.” Academia. Accessed February 5, 2016. www.academia.edu/744111/Hedges_tag_questions_message_processing_and_persuasion