Presentation Do's and Don'ts

Think back over the presentations you have sat through, says Adam Fisher, content editor for Media First,a media and communications training firm, and you’ll likely remember: “Excuse me if I seem nervous,” or “You probably can’t read this.” If you do, you can probably recall little else about that presentation. These are common expressions that can ruin presentations, and here are more phrases presenters should avoid, says Fisher:

1. “You won’t need to make notes.”This line is usually followed by “the presentation will be online later.” Good presentations do not feature text heavy slides, and no-one ever went to a presentation hoping to hear someone read aloud. Restrict slides to a supporting role and engage your audience with your thoughts and ideas. 

2. “I’ve got a lot of information to cover.”This is a presentation killer and instantly evokes thoughts of information overload and boredom among the audience, not a great start. Go back to the editing stage and focus on one key message you want people to take away.

3. “Time’s running out, so I’ll get through the rest quickly.” This smacks of a lack of preparation and is not going to leave a good impression with your audience. They are likely to be left wondering what they would have gotten from the rest of the presentation if it had been given the time it deserved. Audiences typically become restless, distracted and uneasy when there is any suggestion that proceedings are overrunning. 

4. “I think I’ve bored you enough.” Hopefully your presentation has been interesting and insightful. If it really has been boring, there are much more effective and stylish ways to bring your presentation to a close, such as producing a brief summary of the key points, referring back to a question you may have asked at the start, or encouraging action or drawing in an inspirational quote.

5. “I’d like to tell a story.” Stories and anecdotes are a great way to illustrate your messages and make them relatable, but they don’t need to be announced. You want your presentation to sound natural, not rehearsed and robotic. Think about how you would bring in stories to a conversation with family and friends and adopt a similar approach.

6. “As I’m sure you know…” You are the expert in this situation and it is important not to assume the people you are speaking to know as much about the subject as you do. The best approach is to try to educate those who may not naturally know what you are talking about, and reinforce the knowledge of those who probably do.

7.This is a complex diagram.”If a diagram in your slides is not easy to understand your audience will quickly lose interest. If you introduce it as a “complex diagram” they are unlikely to try to understand what it shows. Simplicity, as with so much of presentations, is crucial.

8. “Now, before I start…”You have only got a very small opportunity in a presentation to make the right impression with your audience. This means you need to start strongly by getting to your key messages and supporting stories and anecdotes straight away. Don’t waste this crucial time with a bad beginning, such as checking technical equipment.

9. “Any questions?”There’s nothing wrong with the question itself. The problem is that it is often asked right at the end of a presentation when you should be looking to finish strongly. By asking this question at the end, you will be met with an awkward silence, or you could face questions which are not addressing the message you want the audience to take away from the presentation. Ask for questions at regular intervals throughout the presentation and focus on providing a strong ending.

A version of this article originally appeared onthe Media First blog.



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