25 Common Presentation Mistakes and Tips

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Communication and Skills > Best Practices > 25 Common Presentation Mistakes and Tips

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, 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 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, 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….

25 Common Presentation Errors
Amarnath Krishnaswamy, Professor, India, Member
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).

Common Mistakes in Presenting
Ronald Ainsbury, Management Consultant, New Zealand, Member
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...

Who Should Introduce the Presenter?
MJ Stombaugh, Student (MBA), United States, Member
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.

Enjoy Presenting Yourself and Show It
carol, Business Consultant, United States, Member
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.

Layout and Font Size of your Presentation
MUNI DAVE, Business Consultant, India, Member
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.

Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Matthews Mwase, Student (MBA), Malawi, Member
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.

Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Locke, Teacher, New Zealand, Member
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.

Do a Tryout for your Friends
Yuriy Duchev, CxO / Board, Ukraine, Member
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.

Tips to Engage the Audience of your Presentation
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
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.

Pre-reading Hand Outs and Templates
Jaime Arevalo, Manager, Colombia, Member
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.

Great Presentation Mistakes and Tips
Karibi George, Nigeria, Member
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.

Further Presentation Tips
Gavril, Management Consultant, Albania, Member
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.

No Awareness About the Purpose of your Presentation
Ray Uday Shankar Prasad, India, Member
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.

How to Find Out what your Audience is Interested in?
Theo Villella, Business Consultant, United States, Member
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….

More Tips and Pointers
Theo Villella, Business Consultant, United States, Member
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.

Some More Presentation Errors en Tips
Isaiah Maisiba, Accountant, Kenya, Premium Member
Be alert for feedback from your audience, for example if there is a need for a break or in case of emergencies like power failure. You might ask somebody to perform this role for you. Editor: added.
Also keep your presentation up to date (Editor: added). Sometimes technology changes and the version you are using is getting out of date. Make it more dynamic and use current data and illustrations.
Power point has a good tool 'Pack and go' which can assist you to package your info.
Remember to finish in time (Editor: added) and also to make short presentations rather then long ones.

How to Present
Mohammed, HR Consultant, Saudi Arabia, Member
Presenting and standing in front of others needs some level of bravery (Editor: added).
Bravery in presenting means:-
1. Excellent preparations.
2. Practice at home with friends or family.
3. Don't be afraid from audiences.
4. Don't look in audiences' eyes.
5. Don't be afraid of (negative) feedback.
6. Try to prepare cards to remind you of your main points (Editor: added).
I recommend the Toastmasters club to train yourself and get experiences from advisers and club members.

Presentation Tips: More on Rehearsing
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
I particularly agree with C. Rehearsal. Because your brain believes what you tell it to do, rehearsal breeds familiarity so the brain thinks ‘been here done this, now I get the T-shirt’. So:
1: READ THROUGH, learn your points;
2: STUMBLE THROUGH, speak with actions in your mind’s eye (Psycho-Motor Imagery Rehearsal) (Time OK? Modify. Speak for only 2/3 of time allotted.)
3: WALK THROUGH, on your feet with aids (simulated, if not real) and movements (time OK?)
4: RUN THROUGH, a full-dress rehearsal: ideally at the venue, to confirm the admin aspects (from sight-lines and positions to plugs etc.) as well as your performance, ideally with an audience.
Some minor remarks:
DO NOT READ SENTENCES. Use key words in large print that you can glance at while standing away from a rostrum.
DO NOT HAVE SENTENCES ON YOUR SLIDES. Large print key words Normal upper & lower case. (Ed: added this to #6)
DO NOT READ WHAT IS ON THE SCREEN. Boring. (Ed: added this to #14)
The MAIN requirement remains ENTHUSIASM. If you aren’t why should they be? When you can fake that, you’re a master performer. (Ed: added this to #14).

Mistakes During Presentations
Helen Strong, Business Consultant, South Africa, Member
Great topic. Avoiding all these presentation mistakes is so important, especially when providing the audience with outcomes of research, or taking them through new strategies. People trust the confident presenter.
It's extremely important to project one's voice and make sure the audience can hear what you are saying.
If a question is asked from the floor, summarize it before answering. Editor: Thanks, added that to #13.

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