We all know what it’s like to sit through a bad presentation. We can easily spot the flaws — too long, too boring, indecipherable, what have you — when we watch others speak. The thing is, when we take the stage ourselves, many of us fall into the same traps.
Here are five of the most common, along with some tips on how to avoid them.
Failing to engage emotionally. You risk losing your audience when you just “state the facts,” even in a business setting. No presentation should be devoid of emotion, no matter how cerebral the topic or the audience. Speak to people’s hearts as well as their minds. Look for ways to add emotional texture to your exhibits, data, proofs, logical arguments, and other analytical content. Try opening with a story your audience can relate to, for example, or including analogies that make your data more meaningful.
To unearth the emotional appeal of your ideas, ask yourself a series of “why” questions. If you’re requesting funding to pay for cloud storage, for instance, start by asking, “Why do we need cloud storage?” Your answer may be something like “to facilitate data sharing with colleagues in remote locations.” Then ask why you need to accomplish that — and you’ll eventually get to the human beings who will be affected by your ideas. Suppose your answer is “to help remote colleagues coordinate disaster relief efforts and save lives.” That’s your emotional hook. Once you’ve found it, it’s easier to choose words and images that elicit empathy and support.
Asking too much of your slides. PowerPoint can be a great tool. But know what you’re trying to accomplish with it. Do only that, nothing more. Problems crop up when you place too many elements in a slide deck. If you cram in all the points you’re going to cover so you won’t forget anything, you’ll end up projecting entire documents when you speak. (Garr Reynolds aptly calls these hydra-headed beasts “slideuments.”) No one wants to attend a plodding read-along. It’s...
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