When someone udders the word “presentation”, most people jump to thinking of a stage, a microphone, a few hundred people, and a visual aid like PowerPoint. The majority of professionals skip the preparation steps and jump straight into creating slides that are unhelpful instead of being a resource.
Some of the common PowerPoint mistakes include:
- Unreadable Slides – Because the presenter skipped the development steps (setting the purpose, goals, and thesis), the entire presentation is now laid out in a bullet format on the slides.
Too much content on the slides leads to the text being far too small to read. If your prospects can’t read your slides, it frustrates them, and the slides are worthless. Low contrast can also lead to headaches and a complete shutdown from the audience.
What’s even worse, these slides make you look incompetent as you constantly have to look at them for the reminder of what you are talking about, or what’s next.
With excessive words on each slide, the audience is focused on reading rather than listening, rendering the presenter useless.
- Too Much Data on Slides – Intricate graphs and pie charts do not work well on visual aids. Facts and data are important to distribute on handouts because they can be difficult to see from any distance away from the screen. Even then, the projector isn’t always good at showing crisp images, leading to bigger problems. Layers of data, lines, and arrows do not help complex graphics be easier understood, quite the opposite.
- Spelling Errors – Errors in spelling and grammar make you look like an amateur. Don’t rely on the software’s spell checker, often the tense is incorrect or homophones can cause problems. Have your presentation proofread by someone else – twice.
- Too Much Animation – Animation may be fun to play with, but it does nothing for the effectiveness of a presentation, quite the opposite. When words are spinning and flying on and off the slide, people get hypnotized by movement and are now not focused on anything that’s important, like your message.
- Just Reading Slides – This problem stems from skipping preparation steps and not rehearsing enough. Visual aids are called aids for a reason; inanimate objects are not supposed to be more effective than people. Reading slides makes a presenter look like he/she is filling in for someone else and has no idea how to explain the content. The narration isn’t helpful!
- Facing the Projector Screen – Presentations are, after all, a conversation, you can’t have a proper conversation when you are facing away from people. Sound waves are intended to carry across a room horizontally. These waves become muffled when they are spoken into a corner or at a wall in the opposite direction.
- Not Knowing the Presentation – Another problem that stems from a lack of preparation. If a presenter spends adequate time preparing for and rehearsing a presentation, confidence builds, and there is no need to use notes or read information. If the words come out different than how they were written on paper, as long as the message is the same, it’s just as fantastic!
- Skipping Slides – I love when presenters have to skip ahead three slides only to skip back four slides. It becomes very confusing for the audience to remember where you left off and how it all relates. This mistake is a huge red flag for lack of organization (and practice). Organization is a critical component of developing presentations, if the proper organization is in place, skipping slides won’t be necessary at all, and your transitions will be seamless.
- Providing Slides on Handouts – Just because PowerPoint has the capability of printing your slides as handouts doesn’t mean it’s the best strategy. Handouts have a purpose; they could include content not covered or content that elaborates on what was covered. Handouts can also be an effective call to action for the audience and contain your contact information. If your presentation doubles as a handout, you are useless as a presenter because your audience can read everything you’re saying.
- Presentation Too Long – Not being able to draw the line at where your presentation ends is a crime! No matter how hard you try, it’s not possible to cover everything in every presentation. Save some for later. Pick and choose what you are going to cover limiting your single topic to only three points. Don’t let your presentation become a never ending story.
You’ve probably sat through some presentations that had a many of these mistakes. (These were obviously not my clients.) With proper preparation, practice, and awareness you can ensure you’re not making these mistakes.
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