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5 Presentation “Killers” to Avoid

Posted by Jeff Welch on 7/14/14 4:00 AM
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I recently read a book called 136 Effective Presentation Tips by Tony Jeary and David Cottrell. The book is filled with 136 practical tips to improve your public speaking and presentation skills. I received the book as a gift and have found it to be quite helpful.


In addition to the tips, the book also includes a page titled, “Top Ten Ways to Kill a Presentation.”


As a trainer, I’ve delivered numerous presentations throughout my career and I couldn’t agree more with the items on the list. I’ll share my perspective on five of the top ten presentation killers and what you can do to improve your presentation skills.


Killer 5: Apologize for not being prepared

Practice and preparation go a long way to increase your confidence and credibility as a presenter. If you can devote some quality practice time before taking to the platform or podium, I’d highly recommend it. However, I realize there are times when you’re notified about delivering a training session or presentation at the last minute and you simply can’t practice. Trust me, I’ve been there.


If you’re forced to speak at the last minute and you’re short on practice time, the last thing you want to do is make excuses and apologize for being ill-prepared. Your audience members didn’t come to hear an apology; they came to hear a presentation.


Although it may be tempting to humanize yourself by sharing how you were asked at the last minute to replace the original speaker or how you forgot to include some additional information, I wouldn’t suggest it. Simply do what you were tasked to do (which is to deliver a presentation) and never let the audience in on your secret.


Killer 4: Read every word

As a speaker, it’s good protocol to have a safety net such as an instructor guide, presentation outline, or note cards. However, don’t bury your head in your notes and read every single word. It’s a big audience turn-off.


Again, it goes back to practice. I find the more I practice my presentation, the less note-dependent I am. My recommendation is to practice your delivery and speak compassionately from your heart. When I do this I find I only have to glance at my notes periodically.


Killer 3: Tell a long story that has nothing to do with the presentation

Incorporating a story into your presentation can be a very effective way to grab the audience’s attention, prove a point, or connect with auditory learners. However, the stories you tell must be relevant. If the story isn’t relevant to both your topic and your audience, it simply becomes a time waster and an air filler. An irrelevant story also leaves your audience wondering how the dots were supposed to connect.


Killer 2: Forget the opening sentence

The opening is perhaps one of the most critical components of a presentation. It sets the stage for everything else to follow. If you botch the opening sentence it doesn’t leave much room for recovery. Forgetting the introduction not only has a negative impact on your professionalism and credibility, it can also make you more nervous.


If there’s one part of a speech that I’d recommend knowing forward and backward, it’s the opening. A strong, solid opening allows you to make a significant impact from the very start.


Killer 1: Show the wrong slides

The use of multimedia during a presentation is commonplace and often expected. Not only are we expected to use multimedia, but we are expected to use it properly.


Try to practice using your multimedia projector and remote long before your actual presentation. Familiarize yourself with issues like proper slide sequencing and screen muting. Make sure your PowerPoint slides are relevant, in the correct order, and support your presentation’s overall message.


As a trainer or professional speaker, our job is to breathe life into a presentation, not to kill it with these or other common mistakes. Make sure you avoid these presentation killers and master your presentation skills!


What are some of the worst presentation killers you’ve observed?

Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

Tags: presentation skills

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