Avoid the 5 Most Common Presentation Mistakes

The art of communication is the language of leadership. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a professional communicator, your ability to lead well depends on your aptitude in connecting with people in a meaningful way.

The good news? You can develop this skill. Consider this: most people speak, but does that make them a speaker? Most people can sing, but that doesn’t mean they can be described as a singer. The same is true for running. I can run. I’ve even run a half-marathon. But I don’t call myself a runner. In my mind, a runner is someone who pursues running as a sport, strives for improvement and excellence and has a degree of passion about it. That’s not me.

There was a time in history when being an orator was equivalent to being a rock star today. Without amplification equipment and all the channels of modern communication, it was those who developed their abilities as a speaker who were leaders. Speaking well is still important.

Avoid the Five Most Common Presentation Mistakes

1. Speaking with Low Energy
Be anything but boring. Regardless of your personality, when you are presenting your ideas, it’s time to pull out all your passion. Use your body language and voice inflections to convey excitement.  You’ve heard the comment, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”  If you want me to believe you, it behooves you to put some passion into to your message. You might listen to some of your favorite upbeat music as a way to crank up your physical and mental energy. The same kind of music you exercise to is a good place to start. The energy you bring to speaking shouldn’t be forced, but be your best.


2. Not practicing enough.
Excellent presentations come more easily with experience, but preparation is always key. Rookie speakers sometimes think that practice means checking your powerpoint and making sure the technology is working. That might be important, but it’s not most important. People can look at your slides online. They want to hear your heart, not just your content. They expect you to be fully present, prepared, and articulate.

A marvelous tool for preparation is right in your hand. Smart phones not only have the ability to record your voice – they have video. I know- nobody really likes to hear their own recorded voice, much less a video in living color. However, you need to do this for practice. If you don’t like what you hear, work on improving the mannerisms that bug you. Your audience sees what you’re seeing, so this is a powerful tool for improvement.

3. Overuse of Powerpoint.
Technology is a wonderful thing but people are wired for human connection. Novice speakers are often tempted to load a slick powerpoint with information. Conveying data rather than maintaining eye contact and using the power of stories is a big mistake. And never turn your back on the audience to read from a slide.

4. Going over your allotted time.
You not only lose people’s attention if you run longer than the designated time – you even might lose some credibility. You don’t want to leave people with a feeling of annoyance. It’s far better to end earlier than expected than to go over your allotted time.

5. Not having a clear ending.
Part of your preparation is planning – perhaps even memorizing – your opening statements and your closing thoughts. I’ve heard people close by saying, “that’s all I’ve got”, and walk off the platform. That’s not memorable or professional. Have a clear conclusion prepared. z

Gifts are inborn, talent is developed and skills are acquired. Undoubtedly, when all three intersect, there’s magic. When you have an opportunity to speak to a group, you can do a stellar job with planning and preparation. Avoiding the five  most common presentation mistakes is a solid place to start.

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