Even under the most favorable conditions, giving a presentation can be cause for a lot of anxiety.
Standing in front of a room, talking an audience through complicated points, trying to make sure you’re communicating the essential information without boring your listeners stiff — there’s a reason fear of public speaking is so often ranked among the top fears Americans have.
If you’re preparing to give a talk and don’t want to look foolish in front of your peers, here is an outline of the four most common mistakes presenters make, and how you can avoid them.
1. Insufficient Planning and Preparation
At one point or another, most of us have sat through a presentation that just seems to go nowhere. Lack of planning has been the ruin of many a presentation, and putting the time in to make sure your talk has a natural flow and builds a compelling narrative is essential for success.
Many business leaders and public speakers actually work with presentation designers to help craft gripping presentations through storyboarding, copywriting, and data visualization. Bringing on professional PowerPoint experts who can streamline the planning process and provide you with a finished product that will keep your audience captivated.
2. Failure to Create Emotional Connection
Let’s face it: people are not going to follow your presentation if they feel it has nothing to do with their lives. No matter what kind of material you’re speaking on, you need to establish an emotional connection so the audience stays invested in what you have to say.
Part of this simply comes down to body language, but it also has to do with how you structure your talk. Always foreground the human side of your subject. Trying to pitch a new product? Talk about how it solves a real-life problem. Providing an account of your department’s performance over the past quarter? Use the numbers to tell a story about overcoming adversity. Starting with the concrete and relatable will get your audience invested in what you have to say.
3. Overcrowding Your Slide Deck
PowerPoint slide decks can add a huge amount of meaning and visual interest to a presentation, butonlyif they are well designed. A slide that is filled with dense text or decontextualized numbers will only confuse your audience about the point you’re trying to make.
PowerPoint design is a fairly technical matter, so if you’re not confident in your skills, it’s best to bring on PowerPoint specialists who can provide you with custom graphics and visualizations to help bring your data to life.
4.Trying to Cover Too Much
Perhaps the biggest presentation mistake you can make is to try to cover more ground than you can feasibly manage in the time allotted to you. This often happens because presenters get bogged down in minutiae and technical information the audience doesn’t actually need.
What are the essential parts of your story, and what background data is actually needed to give it context? Staying focussed on this question, and cutting out technical digressions that muddy the waters, can help you deliver a tight, compelling address.
The good news is that public speaking does tend to get easier over time. But if you feel today that you lack experience as a presenter, planning, connecting, designing, and streamlining your presentation will help you avoid the most common blunders and keep your audience engaged from beginning to end.