By Bill Hellkamp
1. I’ll pull it all together the day before. – A good presentation requires preparation and practice – and it takes time. This isn’t like cramming for a test. This is important. In business you are judged by how you perform in front of others. So, take the time to craft a quality performance.
2. Content is king. – Content is important, no doubt, but it is only half of the equation. A quality presentation not only has practical material, but is delivered in a way that allows the audience to understand and integrate the information. Prepare both the substance and the style.
3. It’s best if I write it in PowerPoint. – Writing your outline in PowerPoint has become increasingly popular. The problem with it is that when I make slides of my entire presentation, I will be tempted to show them all to the audience, thus creating another “Death by PowerPoint” situation.
4. I’ll do better if I memorize the talk. – There are at least two problems with this idea. First, you will probably sound robotic as you deliver the talk. Second, you will be disappointed with all of the ideas you misremember. Instead, make good notes and have a conversation with the audience.
5. My audience wants me to fail. – With very few exceptions, your audience wants you to do well. They want their time to be well spent and to learn something new and interesting. If you watch an audience when the speaker is failing, you will see that they are uncomfortable with the situation.
6. I should present for my whole allotted time. – If you are scheduled to present for 30 minutes, prepare for 20. Here’s why:
- – You must leave time for questions during and after the talk.
- – You are more likely to go too long than too short.
- – No one ever complained because a speaker finished a few minutes early!
7. My great knowledge will impress them. – It never hurts to be well-informed about your topic, but you never want to rub it in the audience’s face. You are not trying to impress them with your knowledge, but to transfer it to them. Speak to them at their level but avoid speaking down to them.
8. Technical people are supposed to be boring! – There is an impression for some that presenting in a flat, monotone voice with no gestures or energy somehow denotes competency. Yet we universally admire speakers that are interesting, enthusiastic and interesting. Don’t hide behind boring because you have a fear of speaking.
9. The audience can’t read. – Considering the number of presenters that read their slides to the audience, I can only assume that this is their belief. Stop putting your bullet pointed notes on your slides and reading them. Your audience finished way before you did and are waiting for you to catch up – bored!
10. My slides will make a great handout. – If your slides contain enough information to be effective handouts, then they are bad slides. Slides should be more visual that text, meaning pictures and graphs that are interesting and informative. Create your handout in Word with the notes the audience needs and include the graphs.
11. The slides must always be on. – It will come as a surprise to many speakers that they are allowed to turn off the slides and actually have a conversation with the audience. You cannot build a positive relationship with the audience if the slides are always the star. And that relationship is crucial to being an influential presenter.
12. The audience just wants to listen. – In most professional speaking situations you will be talking to an educated and interested audience. They don’t want to be lectured to. They want to be included. Ask them questions, get their opinion, and reference their expertise. Develop an interactive style that engages the listener.
13. The last question is how I close the presentation. – Almost invariably speakers will answer their last question in the Q&A session, see that their time is done and exit with a “thank you.” Instead, plan a close for after the last question so you leave the audience with the correct message. Make it interesting and impactful.