25 Common Presentation Mistakes and Tips

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25 Common Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands

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)
  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, connection with your laptop, sound)
  7. Not checking the VENUE (lighting conditions, capacity of meeting room, airco)
  8. Not considering your INTRODUCTION (by who and how)
  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)
  4. TOO MANY SLIDES (do you really need slides? stick to around max. 10 slides for half an hour or 20 for an hour)
  5. Poor VISUALS or none (too complex, too flashy, no consistent style, only text)
  6. TOO MUCH TEXT (too much information, too much details, font size too small)
  7. Being NERVOUS (prepare, practice and if needed do a breathing exercise)
  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. No INTERACTIVITY (ask questions now and then, split up in groups for an exercise/case - one person presents the results, engage your audience)
  11. GETTING STUCK in a discussion / argument with one questioner (continue afterwards).
  12. BLUFFING: Handling a question you don't know the answer to.
  13. Being BORING (enjoy what you do and show it, 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)
  14. 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…. 7-11-2017

25 Common Presentation Errors
Amarnath Krishnaswamy, Professor, India
On D and G. It is indeed useful to come to the venue earlier and meet the audience members individually, also to get a possible fix on who could be "friendly" or "hostile" to the topic and you. (Editor: added)
On 1. Also announce at the start if and when questions will be taken - during / after a section / after the presentation. (Editor: added)
- GETTING STUCK in a discussion / argument with one questioner. (Editor: inserted as #11)
- BLUFFING: Handling a question you don't know the answer to. (Editor: inserted as #12). 11-11-2017

Common Mistakes in Presenting
Ronald Ainsbury, Teacher, United Kingdom
Nice list. Some amplifications:
REHEARSE, rehearse, rehearse - until your presentation doesn't sound like you rehearsed at all. (Editor: added)
On 4. Do you really need slides? I often make my students do a presentation using pre-drawn flip charts. They can be really creative. Powerpoint makes people lazy. (Editor: added)
On 1. I'd add one more about structure - avoid words like "and" and "also" when making a list. Tell the audience "there are four attributes - first..." rather than one of the attributes is... And then there is... And also... 11-11-2017

Who Should Introduce the Presenter?
MJ Stombaugh, Student (MBA), United States
Not considering your INTRODUCTION. Who introduces you and how? Editor: added.
By the way, what is the best way to introduce speakers anyhow?
1. One person introduces all at the beginning.
2. Each speaker introduces the one that follows.
3. Each speaker introduces her/himself. 11-11-2017

Enjoy Presenting Yourself and Show It
carol, Business Consultant, United States
On 13: Enjoy what you do and show it. Editor: added.
1. One should enjoy the subject in your mind before presenting it to others.
2. While presenting be mindful of your audience, especially the dull ones and engage them because they tend to make the whole process drag. 12-11-2017

Layout and Font Size of your Presentation
MUNI DAVE, Business Consultant, India
On 5 and 6.
- Restrict every slide to 4 to 5 lines only. Don't try to stuff much more in single slide.
- Don't make slide background too colorful, focus more on contents;
- Font size should not be smaller than 28, and font type + size same in all slides. Editor: added.
- Add some pictures (sketches, photos,) with letters. Pleasant visuals generates interest in viewers more than words only. Editor: added. 12-11-2017

Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Matthews Mwase, Student (MBA), Malawi
On 2. Define any jargon that can not be avoided to ensure understanding.
On 10: Engage the audience with short case studies in their groups that can later be presented by group leaders. Editor: added. 12-11-2017

Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Locke, Teacher, New Zealand
On 13: Touch peoples' hearts, if you do all 25 tips and fail to touch their hearts and souls by connecting them to the essential vision behind the details then the presentation fails. We engage and remember those things that move us most deeply. Editor: added. 12-11-2017

Do a Tryout for your Friends
Yuriy Duchev, CxO / Board, Ukraine
Very importantly, before the date of the presentation PRACTICE your presentation for yours friends or family. Their feedback allows you to fix mistakes or difficulties and make your presentation much better. 12-11-2017

Tips to Engage the Audience of your Presentation
srinivas, Lecturer, India
On C. You need to engage the audience of your presentation. This requires you take the following into consideration:
1. Audience should be comfortable at physical level, for example the chairs, audio system, air conditioning should be functioning well, visuals have to be clearly visible.
2. Understand the background of the audience, their culture, preferred language of communication, belief system, level of understanding.
3. Prepare the audience to come over any negative emotions such as greed, envy etc. Giving suggestions in the opposite direction of the negative emotions such as anger etc. may help them not to get distracted.
4. Know the bliss (happiness) profile of the audience. Try to tune to the habits where they derive their bliss from.
5. Prepare the audience by giving them suggestions at the conscious and subconcious levels.
6. Guide them to the objective of the presentation.
7. What suggestions to give and how to give them also depends on the presenter. Preparation at deeper layers of his/her own being improves on the engagement levels. 12-11-2017

Pre-reading Hand Outs and Templates
Jaime Arevalo, Consultant, Colombia
Companies normally provide templates for their staff to use. Because the usage implies a kind of mental restriction, it is better to prepare the presentation without such template. Then once it's drafted, transfer it to the templates.
Another input is consider the convenience to hand out PRE-READING INFORMATION regarding the topic to be presented. Editor: added. 12-11-2017

Great Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Karibi George, Other, Nigeria
Thank you for this topic. It helped me to think about presenting / giving presentations in an organized and practical way. Most training programs for public speaking sound esoteric and abstract rather than practical.
Editor: That is what we are trying to do at 12manage 👍: combining scientific rigor with practical relevance. 12-11-2017

Further Presentation Tips
Gavril, Management Consultant, Albania
Make sure you fully understand what you present.
Combine text/voice with body language. Editor: added.
Be interactive.
Summarize the message at the end.
Stimulate curiosity for more information. Editor: added. 12-11-2017

No Awareness About the Purpose of your Presentation
Ray Uday Shankar Prasad, Other, India
The comments are indeed very useful.
I would like to stress that one should be fully aware of the PURPOSE behind any presentation. The material of the presentation should align with its purpose, which is to convey in a direct and concise manner what you would like to say on the subject. Editor: added. 12-11-2017

How to Find Out what your Audience is Interested in?
Theo Villella, Business Consultant, United States
ON D: In reality, you often do not know what your audience wants to know or needs to know. You know what you think they need, but they may not. But they are there, so they will have expectations. It is a good idea for audiences up to say 10-15 people to during the introduction ask all participants what their expectations are, list them on a flip chart and explain if you will, or will not, so you are able to meet all of their expectations. This is considered a best practice. Editor: added.
On 6. That is a major pitfall to avoid. Lots of bullet points to explain a complex idea or describe a complex issue. As is also trying to cover more than a single concept or idea with one slide.
On 4. In my opinion, the majority of your slides should stay well under one minute, with an occasional one over one minute. So a 30 minute presentation may well need 40-50 slides. That number can come down if you build animations that reveal the content as you speak. My presentations move quickly and have lots of well-designed slides most with good photography. Editor: in my experience, presenters from the US like to use a lot more slides per hour than people from Europe do. A cultural thing I guess…. 13-11-2017

More Tips and Pointers
Theo Villella, Business Consultant, United States
On 4. @Editor: Yes, the number of slides is cultural. In Japan I saw very dense slides that required 10-15 minutes to explain very complex relationships with several examples.
When using a visual media to communicate your message try to tell the story with pictures, animation, and short video clips. You are likely to end up with many more slides and significantly less words.
On 10. Interactivity
You should design your presentation to be highly interactive and deliver it with greatest participant engagement. There are many ways to accomplish this. Asking provocative, open-ended questions is one. Too many presenters ask, “Any questions? - Never do that! Asking “…any questions” when it is time for a break is certain to get a zero response. 14-11-2017


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