Ten Biggest Mistakes Presenters Make By Chris King
recently attended a 90 minute presentation by an FBI agent on the topic
of Internet security. I was prepared for a dry and possibly boring program,
so you can imagine my surprise and delight when the speaker was so excellent
he literally "knocked our socks off."
He was right on and didn't
even come close to making even one of the mistakes presenters tend to
make. As I list and discuss what I consider to be the "Ten Biggest
Mistakes" I will use him as an example of ways in which to avoid,
combat and overcome the common mistakes we all suffer when attending programs
- especially those programs that deal with computers and technology.
#1. Non-Productive Preparation
I feel that most presenters prepare for programs, but don't realize how
to do the preparation productively. They have been asked to speak because
they are knowledgeable about their topic, but they don't know how to organize
all of the information at their fingertips. A good rule to follow is to
prepare for at least a half hour for every minute you will be speaking.
Set the goal for your presentation. Pick the theme and break it into three
strong points. Don't be so wedded, however, to your plan that you can't
change course (which will be easy because of all of the material you have
prepared). The agent definitely had a plan, but told us that we were going
to lead him in the direction we wanted to go, and we felt that we did
- although I know that it was all pre-planned and prepared in advance.
#2. Too Much Reliance on PowerPoint
Yes, PowerPoint is a powerful tool, but we must remember that it is a
"tool" and not the be-all and end-all of our presentations.
Just because you have created a slick PowerPoint program doesn't mean
that it will carry your presentation. I have witnessed so many distracting
and meaningless PowerPoint presentations that I almost hate to use the
software at all. Our agent, however, had his pertinent information - not
too much - in PowerPoint. It wasn't overdone or obtrusive. It was there
to help make his points and keep all of us on track. And he didn't print
up a tree-full of handouts with copies of his slides - thank goodness!
#3. Lack of Audience Interaction
We can't let audience members take over during a presentation, but an
excellent speaker like our FBI agent makes the audience feel like participants.
He allotted time for questions while keeping the whole program on track.
He always answered a question starting with the phrase, "What a great
question," or, "I am so glad you asked that." I have actually
witnessed speakers who are condescending and make the people who ask questions
feel stupid. This doesn't endear a speaker to anyone in the audience.
As a matter of fact, the participants will turn against the speaker and
then no one benefits from the presentation.
#4. Lack of Enthusiasm
If you don't have enough passion for your topic to exhibit some sincere
enthusiasm, you shouldn't be giving a presentation about it. Again, it
was obvious that the agent loved his work and was totally enthusiastic.
He had been on a case the night before and until 4 a.m. in the morning
of the day he came to us. At our early morning meeting, you would never
have guessed that he had a tired bone in his body because of all of the
excitement and enthusiasm he exuded throughout the presentation.
#5. No Humor
Now you are probably wondering how an FBI agent can inject humor into
a talk about the FBI. He had us laughing with gusto throughout the hour
and a half. For example, part way through, after taking his suit coat
off and answering a bunch of questions, he said that "now, we have
to get back on track in order to finish on time. So, let's be quiet. You
don't want to argue with a man who has a gun (which we could now see)
and a badge." We were a bit of a rowdy group. Humor isn't easy, but
if we make fun of ourselves the audience will laugh with us and enjoy
#6. Copying Other Speakers' Styles
As much as I have raved about the agent, there is no way I would feel
comfortable and/or be successful trying to copy his style. When we are
impressed with another speaker, we are tempted to emulate what turned
us on. Just remember that we are all unique and, even though it is good
to observe and learn techniques from other presenters, we will never fool
an audience by trying to copy a speaker. They will feel our insincerity
and we will challenge our own integrity and credibility.
#7. Trying to Please Everyone
No matter how prepared we are or how excellent a speaker we have become,
we will never be able to please everyone in the audience. It is said that
25% of the audience will love/like you no matter what you do; 25% will
not like you (even before a word comes out of your mouth); and 50% is
up for grabs. Yes, we do want the audience to enjoy and like us, but if
we try to hard to please everyone, our presentations will become bland
and/or wishy washy. I know successful speakers in demand who feel it is
their duty and mission to shake audience members up enough that they are
spurred on to action. These presenters may not be loved at the time, but
they will be remembered and thanked in years to come.
#8. Not Making Use of the Sound System
I am sure that you have experienced a speaker who says, "I have a
voice that carries. I won't use the mike." Even with a great voice,
a presenter must learn how to use a microphone effectively. Without amplification
and the ability to vary volume by using a sound system, you are compromising
the strength of your message. It is always a good idea to arrive early
enough to test the system and adjust it until it works without a glitch
and gives your voice an advantage it wouldn't have otherwise.
#9. Giving a Presentation without a Strong Opening and Closing
The open and close of a presentation are the only portions I ever suggest
memorizing. The open should be strong enough to grab their attention and
set the stage for the rest of the presentation and the close should leave
them excited and ready to take action and/or remember the important points
you were making. These parts of your presentation must be forceful and
even emotional at times. Our FBI agent started by introducing himself
holding up his badge and saying, "I am Agent # _________ from the
FBI." Then, he shared with us (a group of techies) that underneath
that guise, he was "really a geek." We loved him already. When
he closed his presentation, we had great feelings about the FBI and were
ready to join a local security group that he recommended.
#10. Misinterpreting Evaluations
It never fails that in a stack of evaluations telling us how great we
were, there is usually one that is far from being complimentary. If several
of the evaluations mention a habit or technique that we should improve,
we might decide to take the advice. I know speakers who never look at
an evaluation. They feel that they are detrimental and we always focus
on the one bad one rather than all of the good ones. I refer you back
to Mistake #7. Just remember that there are people who won't like you
no matter what, but if they do give constructive feedback, take heed.
Now, I know
that none of you ever make these ten mistakes, but didn't we have fun
discussing them? Remember, I love receiving your FEEDBACK!
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