June 27, 2015 | Jennifer Goodwyn
For most people, a point will come in their career where presentations are expected of them. To some, this will be an opportunity to show off their elocutionary skills, whereas for others it will be a nervous nightmare. The truth is, even if public speaking and presentation skills don't come natural to you, you can still make a strong impression by avoiding the five most common pitfalls of presentation delivery.
Using PowerPoint as a Crutch
Using PowerPoint is a presentation standard, but many forget that it's simply a tool that's supposed to facilitate your presentation – not dominate it. By asking too much of your slide by way of content or visuals, you run the risk of distracting your audience. Chances are, if they're too busy reading the slide, they're probably not paying attention to what it is you're saying. And, if you're using PowerPoint to read your presentation word-for-word, you'll bore your audience and, even worse, come off as being unprepared and unknowledgeable about your subject.
The Absence of a Story
Your presentation may utilize sharp graphics and cool PPT effects but does it say something? Your presentation should tell a story and each point you touch on should support your story. So profits are up 150%? That statistic means nothing unless there's a compelling story around it that explains how and why profits are up, including notable takeaways that can be applied in the future. Put PowerPoint on the backburner until you have clearly outlined your story and what you hope to communicate.
Failing to Engage Your Audience
Don't limit your presentation to facts alone. Use emotion, humor and compelling analogies to keep the attention of your audience and to make your meaning clear. If possible, use a story your audience can relate to in order to make your data more meaningful. To discover an emotional hook that can make your story more impactful, ask yourself a series of “why?” questions on the subject. What benefits and potential detriments, obvious or not, are there through action or inaction?
Not Gauging Your Audience
After you've developed a high-level overview of your story, the next thing to focus on is who your audience is. Are you presenting to a CEO who only wants or has time for a high-level report? Or, will it be the Vice President of a certain division, looking for granularity and specifics? Knowing your audience will inform the delivery of your presentation and will answer for yourself key questions like whether or not to use jargon, how much humor to use, and whether to speak in a professional or colloquial tone.
Lack of Practice
It doesn't matter how well you think you know your presentation, you always want to practice. Practice will reveal hidden holes in your presentation and will help you to rethink your delivery and wording. Not only should you practice by yourself but, if possible, practice with coworkers or individuals who you trust to provide you with helpful, honest feedback.