Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Presentations are nerve-wracking for most people. The key to giving an effective presentation is prepare well and use good slides and other materials. This will give you the confidence you need and help you relax, which is important to perform well. Presentation transcription services are a practical option to add high quality captions and scripts to your slides or document the entire video for reference or reuse.

TED Talks are the best example of killer presentations by people in academics, science, politics, business, and entertainment, some of whom, according to head of TED Chris Anderson, “feel deeply uncomfortable giving presentations”. TED Conferences grooms inexperienced speakers to develop, practice and deliver presentations that people love watching. One of their best known stories is that of the 12-year-old Masai boy named Richard Turere who invented a solar-powered light system to keep the lions out of the cattle pen. When TED invited him to speak at their 2013 conference, they worked with him to help frame his story, present the introduction, and describe events in a logical sequence. After months of practice, Richard finally gave his TED talk and received a standing ovation.

Deploying the right strategies can help you deliver a good presentation. But you should also be aware about the mistakes to avoid. Here are some common presentation mistakes and tips to avoid them.

  • Dimming the lights: Try to keep the lights on when you begin, says Drew Provan in his book Giving Great Presentations. Dimming the main lights is a routine practice before presentations start. Provan points out that this will leave the audience looking at the slides and paying no attention to the speaker. By keeping the lights on, you can maintain eye contact with your audience. People can also see the slides. However, dimming the lights would be helpful if the presentation involves photographic material such as xrays or scans, which cannot be seen in well-lit rooms.
  • Reading off the slides: Never read off the slides. This will give the impression that you are unprepared and also bore your audience. If you keep reading the slides word-for-word, it will create a barrier between you and your audience. To add value to your presentation, know your material well and present it confidently. Marketing and brand consultant Jeff Magnuson recommends keeping a printed copy of the slides out in front of you or having the laptop facing you so that you can check where you are (www.glassdoor.com).
  • Too many slides with too much writing and bullet points: What you say should be the focus of the presentation. PowerPoint slides and other materials are only meant to help the audience better understand matters. Don’t use too many slides with too much text – keep things simple and retain just enough text to act as a prompt for you. Harvard Business Review reports that one McKinsey partner instructs his new MBA hires to reduce PowerPoint decks and replace every 20 slides with only two slides (www.hbr.org). The article also recommends avoiding bullet points and using photos along with text instead. That’s what Steve Jobs did.
  • Not rehearsing: As Forbes points out, an effortless presentation takes hours of work. It’s not about simply reviewing your material ahead of time – it’s about putting in the hours of deliberate practice until you can deliver your presentation effortlessly. Practice improves performance and will boost your confidence, allowing you to take and answer questions from your audience easily. How many times should you rehearse? Inc.com explains that the best TED speakers practice their talk several times and recommends practicing thoughtfully at least 10 times.
  • Not personalizing your presentation: To hook your audience, your talk should be interesting. Personalize your presentation – use a question, a startling statement, an anecdote or a video. If you have data, you can explain it through stories. People relate to and remember stories. Steve Jobs motivated Apple’s employees with compelling stories at his presentations. Bill Gates created a “wow moment” in his now famous TED talk on reducing the spread of malaria by walking out to the center of the stage, and opening the lid of a small jar containing non-infected mosquitoes. He made a compelling point about malaria by releasing a swarm of mosquitoes on his unsuspecting audience.
  • Focusing on only people in the front row: Provan says that many people make the mistake of talking only to people in the front row. Presentations are not a one-on-one, but the best speakers focus on reaching out to every person in the audience. As you speak, scan the room and make each person feeling you are addressing them directly. Best practice is to look at the audience by dividing the room in sections such as left, right and center.
  • Improper posture and body language: Body language is one of the most important elements when it comes to interacting with your audience. Avoid slouching or leaning. Stand up straight and tall, but be relaxed and natural. Use facial expressions and hand movements correctly to explain and communicate your message. Using them incorrectly will make you look uncomfortable and even irritate your audience. Things to avoid include fidgeting, crossed arms, not making eye contact, not smiling, and jiggling your legs and constantly settling your standing position (www.lifehack.org).

Rambling on for long periods is another mistake to avoid. Keep it short as short as possible and focus on the most important points. Allow your audience to ask questions during the course of your presentation. Pay attention to what people have to say – it is as, if not more important, than what you have to say.

Using professional transcription services to create a written record of a video or audio presentation and posting them online can increase engagement with the content and help SEO. Closed captions will provide people who have hearing impairments with full access to the video content.