How many business presentations have you attended in the past month that were uninspiring, overloaded with information, and of which you can barely recall the content? Unfortunately, many of us are doomed to listen to uninspiring business presentations on an almost-daily, or at least weekly, basis. The ability to present with impact is simply widely underdeveloped.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes that we’ve seen throughout our careers, and that should support you in knowing what to avoid:
1. Delegation of presentation preparation to junior staff – without giving the necessary instructions
Many senior managers delegate the preparation of their presentations to their staff. Often, the delegation only has very rough instructions, and without a proper discussion of how the message can be delivered in the most powerful way. In addition, the junior people, who were given the task to prepare the presentation, might not be appropriately educated on how to communicate effectively.
The basis of the presentation might even just be a collection of various PowerPoint slides from past presentations, and the staff member then has the job to sort them in an order that makes the most sense. It ends up being a jumble of slides that don’t necessarily present a coherent storyline.
2. Lack of adequate preparation
Whether managers delegate the preparation or do it themselves, the time they usually spend on preparing the presentation is often not enough, or not spent wisely. They make a presentation for the sake of having one, without really immersing themselves in the process. This results in presentations that are uninspiring, incomplete, poorly structured, overloaded, and which might not even address the audience’s interests.
Consider this: If a manager gives a 20-minute presentation to a room full of, say, 30 people, the “time investment” of the audience equals 10 man-hours. Wouldn’t it only be respectful for the speaker to prepare properly, so that he uses his speaking time effectively, making sure the audience understands his message and that it is relevant for them?
3. The presenter enters a stale ‘Presentation Mode’
Without adequate preparation time, the presentation often ends up without a visible storyline or structure. Presenting such slides results in what Dorotea describes in her latest book as ‘Presentation Mode’. We’ve all seen this type of presentation; some of us might even be guilty of defaulting into this state. Presentation Mode occurs when an uninspiring speaker reads the slides in a monotonous tone.
Entering ‘Presentation Mode’ can have many causes, including a lack of alignment between the intended message and how presenters end up expressing it. The audience will perceive the presentation as boring and uninspiring, simply because the presenter does not express a passion about the topic, nor an interest in the audience. It is the biggest mistake that is made in business presentations: not following your heart, not being authentic and failing to truly connect with your audience.
4. Misuse of PowerPoint
Many senior managers and their teams use PowerPoint, both for presentation purposes as well as a document for distribution. Due to this dual purpose, presenters tend to include all the information that could potentially be of interest to their audience, in the slides. However, projecting large quantities of information on a screen is very ineffective. It often takes the attention away from the story, as well as the speaker – and regaining the attention afterwards is very difficult.
5. Lack of effective communication skills
Whether you speak to a crowd or whether you’re engaged in a one-to-one discussion, basic communication skills make a huge impact. Many presenters make the mistake of failing to use powerful words and adequate body language. They don’t use their voices to capture the audience’s attention, nor their eyes to connect. Because of this, they fail to make a real connection with their listeners.
Creating a good presentation requires careful reflection on audience interest and what you would like them to take away from your time together. Furthermore, it takes enough preparation time to consider the appropriate structure and delivery.
And, once the day of the presentation comes, be authentic and speak from your heart. Connect with your audience and you’ll get your message across. The main factors of successful presentations are not the slides, the props, or even the content – it’s the speaker. It’s all up to you.