Seven Things People Do That Kill Presentations

I gave a talk last week at the SocialDevCamp last Saturday on Social Media for business. I also had the opportunity to watch many presentations, both good and not-so-good. I’ve had some great training on presentations from Northwestern (particularly Surepayroll founder Troy Henikoff) and notice where people go right and where people go wrong with their presentations.

This is a quick list of seven things that will kill your presentation – avoid these problems as much as possible and you will see your presentations gain better reception – plus people will want to talk with you afterwards and get to know you.

1) Excessive text on Powerpoints

I’m sorry, but this is the #1 sin I see with presentations – long blocks of text that many presenters read from the screen. there are huge problems with this, including:

  • It distracts the audience from you
  • It distracts you from the audience
  • It is hard to read
  • It becomes the presentation rather than become a supplement to it.

I try not to place more than three bulletpoints on any powerpoint slide. Half the time, my powerpoints are simply images. Instead of listing my points, I’ll put up a related set of images and go through my points by memory. Which leads me to #2.

2) Excessive use of notes or note cards for presentations

People want to concentrate on you, not on your notes. You want to concentrate on engaging the audience, not engaging your notes. You don’t need to know every word of your presentation before you present it – just the main points. If you know your content, you will be surprised as to how easy the content comes up. If you need notecards, just list a few key terms to remind you of what you want to say, nothing more.

3) Small fonts on Powerpoints

Guy Kawasaki recommends the 10-20-30 rule for Venture Capital presentations – 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font. This is a good rule in general, but you’re going to need more slides for certain topics (and don’t be afraid to use multiple slides to make the presentation seem animated). However, try not to go below 28 px for your font – you have people in the back who need to see it and older people in most crowds. Think of them.

4) Not asking questions of the audience

People get bored when they are not interacted with. If you’re talking at them, they are distracted. If you’re talking with them, asking them to answer questions and to think, they will actually be listening.

5) Always standing behind the podium

Why put a wall between you and those you’re talking to? The podium acts like a barrier to your audience – it’s not that your different or special compared to them, bur that you’re across a river or across the street. Great presentations are also conversations – converse with your audience by moving around, going into the audience, and stepping out of the comfort of the podium

6) Not using examples

We love stories. It’s simple – we consume stories and more importantly, we remember them. If you want to convey your points, don’t just give them a bulletpoint – give a background story to prove your case. In my case, I used Comcast as an example of using social media for business. It helped fill in the picture.

7) Not displaying your passion

If you’re giving a presentation on something, you hopefully like what you’re talking about. But so many times people get nervous, dip into their cards, and go monotone.

If you’re truly passionate and know what you’re talking about, take a risk, drop the notecards, and speak from your experience. That’s what we wanted to hear in the first place.

– Ben