25 Common Presentation Mistakes and Tips

Communication and Skills


Best Practices
Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

25 Common Presentation Mistakes and Tips

Some people have a natural talent for public speaking. But of course, those without such innate abilities can improve their presentation skills as well.
Here's a list of frequently made presentation mistakes and pitfalls (most of them I made myself 😃). Hopefully this will help you to avoid the most common presentation pitfalls:

  1. Not considering the PURPOSE for this presentation (what is your aim, what are you trying to achieve, when is it successful)
  2. Insufficient PREPARATION (subject, content, invitation, travel directions)
  3. Insufficient REHEARSING (practice for some friends)
  4. Not considering your AUDIENCE beforehand (who are they, what are they interested in, what's in it for them. In small groups, you can also ask for their expectations at the beginning of your presentation)
  5. Not considering PRE-READING HAND OUT (allow your audience to prepare)
  6. Not checking the EQUIPMENT (projector, microphone, connection with your laptop, sound, batteries, flip chart, markers)
  7. Not checking the VENUE (lighting conditions, capacity of meeting room, airco, signage, parking space, catering)
  8. Not considering your INTRODUCTION (by who and how)
  9. Not preparing SPEAKING CARDS with bullet points (memory aid)
  1. Presentation STRUCTURE not mentioned at START (like: agenda, main content, break?, when time for questions)
  2. CONTENT is not fitting to the audience (too difficult, too simple, language, jargon)
  3. Presentation is TOO LONG (be concise, only tell what your audience wants/needs to know, finish in time)
  4. TOO MANY SLIDES (do you really need slides? Stick to around one slide for every 3 minutes of your presentation)
  5. Poor VISUALS or none (too complex, too flashy, no consistent style, only text, keep your examples up to date)
  6. TOO MUCH TEXT on visuals (too much information, too much details, font size too small, entire sentences rather than bullets points)
  7. Being NERVOUS (prepare, practice and if needed do a breathing exercise, be brave)
  8. Being too STATIC, staying in 1 place all the time (moving around brings change & variety)
  9. No/POOR EYE CONTACT (only looking at the script or the screen).
  10. Ignoring or missing FEEDBACK from your audience, for example if there is a need for a break, something is not clear or there is any other inconvenience. You might ask somebody to perform this role for you.
  11. No INTERACTIVITY (ask questions now and then, split up in groups for an exercise/case - one person presents the results, engage your audience)
  12. GETTING STUCK in a discussion / argument with one questioner (continue afterwards).
  13. POOR QUESTION HANDLING: Bluffing (handling a question you don't know the answer to). Or not repeating and verifying a question before answering it.
  14. Being BORING (enjoy what you do and show it, be enthusiastic, touch peoples' hearts, try using a metaphore, telling an anecdote, a joke or a story, use a recent news heading, give practical examples, use body language, do not read aloud what is already on the screen)
  15. No SUMMARY at the end (conclusions, main points, stimulate curiosity for more information)
  1. Not asking if there are QUESTIONS (ambiguities)
  2. Not asking for FEEDBACK and suggestions (verbally, via email, or using some kind of form)
  3. Not considering POST PRESENTATION HANDOUT (1-page, memory aid)
As is the case with so many other things, in giving presentations, practice makes perfect… So if you don't get a standing ovation after your first one, don't worry. To gain inspiration, here's an example of a perfect speech (Premium).

A final tip is to record your presentation and afterwards review yourself using above list of common presentation mistakes and tips.

⇒ Did I cover all? Probably not… Please help to further complete our list….


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