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What NOT to Do As a Presenter
by Chris King

Up to now, the majority of my articles have dealt with what to do to become a more effective presenter. In this article, I have decided to take my lead from Vincent Flanders and Michael Willis. They maintain the website and have written the book Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design. So following their approach, I am hoping you will learn good presentation techniques by my pointing out what not to do when presenting. Remember the following are techniques to AVOID.

Be late for your presentation, or rush in at the last minute, just in time. This will convince the meeting planner and the audience members of how busy a person you are. You didn’t even have time to call them to let them know you were on the way. It will just make your arrival more dramatic and will also let them know how little you care about them or the impression you are making (or not making).

Don’t worry about your appearance. After all, they hired you for your expertise, not because of the way you look. And, you were in too much of a hurry to make sure that your clothes were pressed and your shoes were shined. Anyway, you are a creative person who doesn’t worry about looking sharp. And, the audience is dressed in casual attire, so why shouldn’t you? Even though we hate to believe it, their first impression of your sloppiness will remain as a lasting impression of you as a non-professional. Go for it!

Start your presentation with a joke that has nothing to do with your topic. Isn’t this the time-tested formula that speakers have been using for years? How about an off-color joke, at that? That will really cement you as a far-from-professional presenter in their estimation. Or, if you don’t have a joke, you can always start with the lame opening, “It’s so nice to be here with you today.” That will knock them off their seats and get them to sit up and pay attention.

Become known for your large array of mannerisms and/or distracting habits. You can work to add many of these to your repertoire. Some habits to try are: filler words such as “um,” “er,” “you know,” pacing back and forth, swinging your arms, putting your hands in your pockets (jingling change will enhance this habit), picking at your clothes, wringing your hands, smoothing your hair, swaying from side to side, glancing at your watch continually, leaning on the lectern, putting your hand in front of your mouth, and laughing so hard at your own jokes you can’t continue. All of these are guaranteed to keep your audience from remembering anything you told them.

Do not pay attention to your voice and/or speed of speaking. After all, if you have meaningful information, it doesn’t matter, does it, if you speak in a monotone, or speed along so that you can fit it all into your limited time frame. Both of these techniques are guaranteed to cause your audience to “turn off” and take a needed rest. They may even thank you for the break.

Never look anyone in the eye. Scan the room with your gaze somewhere above the heads of audience members. I know that I have read this tip somewhere in the past, but I also know that if you do this, you will never make contact and interact with your audience. Yes, you will avoid seeing some who look bored and others who are dozing off, but you will never give the impression that you are speaking directly to everyone and never feel the encouragement and energy given back by those you look at “eyeball to eyeball” for at least three seconds.

Put your whole presentation on PowerPoint slides. Then, you can read the information right off the slides. You will even be able to copy the slides and use the copies for your handouts. What could be easier? Not much. But it will also be easy for those attending your presentation to take a nap while the room is darkened, glance quickly at the handouts following your session to find any worthwhile tidbits of information and then toss it all in the wastebasket.

Phew! You are ready to close your presentation. You have already gone way over your time limit, but after telling the audience that the end was near, you remembered all sorts of extra facts and points you had forgotten to tell them. You know that you have succeeded at driving them crazy when everyone starts looking at his or her watch - especially the next speaker. If you have reached this part of the article, you realize that I have almost overstated the techniques to avoid, and even if none of the previous habits in any way describe you, be sure to take heed of the next no-no. Many a fine presenter makes this mistake at the end of a super presentation.

Rush off the stage/podium before the audience gets a chance to show its appreciation. You have given the best presentation of your career (and each time you present, this should be so), but before the audience gets a chance to applaud with gusto, or even get on their feet for a standing ovation, you are not there anymore to graciously accept their thanks.

Banish all of the techniques that I have highlighted, and you will give presentations that listeners learn from and enjoy.

And, you will be asked back!

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