Presenting to an audience no matter how small or how large is an important part of the way we do business today. It may be to motivate and influence our team to perform at their best, it may be to pitch for new business, it may be to present proposals to the board, to persuade the customer to buy, it may be simply to convey to others information about a new process or a new idea.
In my work see many presentations and I am so often disappointed by what I see. Almost daily, I see these mistake and it saddens me because I know these people could do so much better.
As a presentation skills coach and trainer, I’ve worked with many people to improve the impact of their presentations. Often there are some simple changes which people – yes, people like you – can make which significantly increase the impact of the presentations.
But let’s look at the biggest mistakes made by people in business when they are presenting.
1. Not being concise
This is what I call the ‘Waffle and Fluff’ syndrome. How often have you been watching a presentation and the presenter takes so much time to get to the point of is topic and or when they do, they add unnecessary and irrelevant material. It is important that you make it clear up front what you are going to talk about then keep to topic, Sure, there are various tools you can use as a presenter to engage your audience but make sure you are clear on what your message is – and stay on topic. So cut the ‘waffle’ and ‘de-fluff’* the presentation. (*Fluff ? We could also call this ‘filler’- filling out the presentation but not adding any real value.)
2. Not understanding their audiences’ needs. If you’re going to be presenting to an audience, it’s important that you understand who they are, what is their level of understanding of what you’re talking about, and what do they need from you. Do your research before you present. It’s often a very simple thing to do and will make your task easier and make your presentation a ‘fit’ for the audience.
3. Relying on PowerPoint
We’ve all seen it – the presenter who not only has a lot of material on the PowerPoint presentation (Far too much detail to be read on the screen!) but he or she reads the PowerPoint material as each slide comes up. It’s as if they’ve written their all presentation on PowerPoint and then simply read it to the audience. PowerPoint is an aid to the presentation, it should be used to enhance what you are saying and, by following a few simple rules, can be a very effective enhancement to help convey the message. But when the person reads everything on the slide – or has too much on each slide – they lose the audience’s attention. Nothing will kill your presentation quicker – that’s why it’s called ‘Death by PowerPoint’.
4. Not engaging their audience
Engaging the audience is of important if we want to have any sort of impact. How can you sell, persuade, influence or motivate if you don’t have the audience engaged? Engaging means they will want to listen to you, they will want to take on what you are saying, they will be motivated. If they’re not engaged, they are just sitting there waiting for you to finish. So how do we engage our audience? Well, there are a number of ways – and they’re easy to do.
Three of the ways are 1. Being concise (See above) 2. Understanding your audience (see above again) and 3. Effective use of PowerPoint.
Even by simply looking at each person, you will increase the level of engagement. But there are other ways – and they’re not hard to incorporate in your presentations.
5. No call to action
The purpose of any business presentation, indeed any presentation at all, even if it’s to the Mother’s Group or the PTA, has a purpose. You have an objective in making that presentation. You may want them to buy your product, accept your proposal, take on and act on the new information or be inspired and motivated to change their behavior. Many presentations end with what can only be called a ‘whimper’. It’s as if the person making the presentation is so glad it’s nearly over that they just want to finish and sit down. They are missing the all-important ‘call to action’. If you’re not incorporating a call to action at the end of your presentation, you should take time to learn how to do this – or your presentations will not be effective and get the outcome you are seeking.
You can avoid these big mistakes and set yourself apart from other colleagues and other presenters. Speaking effectively is such an important skill for anyone in business or in the corporate world today and those who take time to sharpen their skills in this area will stand out from the pack, will be more confident and will be more successful in achieving business outcomes.