If you have been following my blog, I’ve been talking about what presentation fear really is and what to do when you are first asked to present so your stomach doesn’t get tied in knots [see post]. Presentations get easier and less frightening the more you do them because you learn to overcome challenges and get better at preparing successful presentations. The worst thing about being a new public speaker is not knowing what you don’t know. Knowing what presentation traps to avoid helps you foresee any issues and plan ahead.
It seems like a daunting task when I’m explaining it in lots of small steps, but once you get used to the checklist, planning goes quickly and smoothly. Presenters oftentimes skip a vital step that they consider too time-consuming of a task. The mediocre presentations you’ve witnessed in the past were probably caused by some of these presentation traps:
- Last Minute Preparation – Some presenters don’t even think about the presentation until the morning of the presentation. Or even worse, they don’t think about it until they get up to speak. This reckless decision leads to a presentation that doesn’t make any sense because the presenter is scrambling to get it together and speak at the same time. In the end, the audience doesn’t get the information they desired and they grow frustrated. The presenter also gets no value out of it.
- Bullet Points – Microsoft PowerPoint thought they were helping by automatically formatting presentation slides with bullet points. The vast majority of presenters take the easy road and build themselves a checklist on the slide to read from. You can not create engagement by having your back to the audience staring at the screen.
- Reading – Since everything that needs to be said is already on the slides, it can be simply read to the audience in case they can’t read. Slides are used more often nowadays. Even if a visual aide like PowerPoint is not used, many presenters read from a paper script. In either case, the presenter’s eyes are not on the audience to stimulate engagement. I’ve never seen an audience that prefers a presenter focusing on the slides instead of them.
- Handouts – Following the presentation, copies of the slide deck are handed out to the audience. If the slide deck makes sense when you read it, the presenter isn’t needed to give the information. Basically, if your audience can read it for themselves your services are useless. Handouts should be more like a workbook that audience members fill out during the presentation for retention or be a supplemental resource.
- Announcing Nervousness – Every presenter experiences some level of stomach butterflies before beginning; it is only natural. The best presenters are able to shoo the butterflies away and channel that extra adrenaline into excitement. Inexperienced presenters announce their nervousness and draw the listeners’ attention to signs that it isn’t going well. Instead of focusing on your message, they focus on your nervousness. If you keep your nervousness to yourself, most people will never know you’re nervous because most signs of nervousness are very subtle.
Now that you know these presentation traps to avoid, you won’t fall into them and your audience will thank you.
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