Five ways to avoid the pitfalls of a bad presentation

Being forced to sit through a bad presentation is like a form of torture. Worse still if you’ve paid for it. Whether you’re sitting in a convention auditorium, at a boardroom table or being presented to by a colleague, a bad presentation stings like nothing else.

We all know what it’s like. We’ve all sat through them and have all probably uttered words like, “too long”, “too boring”, “nonsensical”, “irrelevant”, and of course, “uninspiring”.

But how many of us make the same mistakes?

Here are some of the most common things you need to avoid next time you do a presentation.

1 Not showing emotion

You’re giving a presentation on a topic that you’re really not that enthused about. We get it. It’s hard to be passionate about everything we do at work. But failing to engage emotionally actually puts you at risk of losing your audience entirely. No one wants to sit through a presentation watching you reel off facts, facts and nothing but the facts, even in a business setting.

Regardless of how dry or cerebral your subject matter is, every presentation needs to have an emotional element otherwise people simply won’t have anything to connect to. And human beings, as is in their nature, need to connect with something on an emotional level to be truly engaged.

Try to find a hook to hang your emotional hat on. Open with a personal anecdote that your audience can relate to or accompany your facts with short analogies to spice things up. A good tip before writing your presentation is to ask yourself some “why questions”. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective audience and figure out what it is about your topic that is important to them. Once you have that, it’s just a matter of choosing the right words and images to connect with them.

2 No more sliding

Everyone loves PowerPoint... Okay seriously, there are many of us that love our presentation software. Too much sometimes. Powerpoint, Keynote or web-based tools like Prezi or Emaze are just that- tools for a specific and limited purpose.

How many times have you seen a presentation where each slide is effectively an entire document crammed into bullet points? “Too many” is probably the answer. No one wants to go to a plodding read-along and if you wanted to read, you could do it in your own time and take more from the text.

Try taking some cues from pre-school teachers: the fewer words on the screen the better. Provide visuals that reinforce your ideas and keep your notes to yourself and if you have information that you feel the audience needs, put it together in a handout and give it to them after the presentation.

3 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

A presentation is only as good as the content on screen and every good presentation needs visual elements that arrest the audience as well as relate to the ideas. Sadly, most presentations on the topic you’re presenting on will use the same visual concepts, meaning everyone has already seen them.

If you want your presentation to stand out from the morass of clichéd clip-art concepts, then take extra time brainstorming lots of ideas that reinforce your points. Once you’ve listed to at least ten, discard the first ones that came to mind. There’s a fair chance everyone else has thought of these already, which is why they came to mind so readily. Coming up with a host of ideas for each concept will guarantee you present something completely original.

4 Keep it simple

Have you ever listened to a presenter who sounded technically proficient and exceptionally knowledgeable and come away thinking you had no idea what they were on about? We all have. And thinking back to those presentations, what’s the one thing they were absolutely jam-packed full of?

The answer, of course, is Jargon.

There’s no doubting that the insurance world has its own lexicon teeming with acronyms and technical terms, but that doesn’t mean we should use them all the time. Even when presenting to colleagues in the industry, try to use words that will resonate so your ideas can be understood and followed. Otherwise, what’s the point? We’re here to inform and influence, not bamboozle and frustrate.

5 Short and sweet

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, a short presentation is always better than a long one. However, going over your allotted time? That is a strict no-no.

While a great, engaging talk goes by quickly, people still prefer brevity over a languorous presentation. We all have things to do, whether we’re at events, in meetings or as clients, so keep your presentation on the shorter side. Remember, thanks to television, the modern person only has about a 30 – 40 minute attention span, and that’s with ads thrown in to break things up. If you can keep your talk under the time given to you, everyone will thank you for it. Go longer and the crowd will turn on you faster than you click to the next slide.

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