7 Pitfalls That Will Doom Every Presentation

You've spent hours nailing down what you're going to say. But unless you spend some time thinking about variables like visuals, vocal style, and body language, you'll risk sabotaging your presentation and failing to get your message across.

How you stand and deliver presentations has a lot to do with how well you and your ideas are received. And, it has a lot to do with how you are perceived in the pecking order within your workplace or organization.

Your knowledge, insights, and experience are valuable resources to many who may be in your audience. How you and your presentation appear to them have a powerful effect. You must overcome each of the following pitfalls to become a skillful, welcomed presenter that meeting and seminar attendees will trust and rely upon:

  1. Thinking the words you use are the biggest part of your message. In his book Silent Messages a Primer of Nonverbal Communication, Albert Mehrabian reveals these fascinating results that speaking professionals have valued highly for years: 55 percent of how people receive your message is related to the audience’s visual perception of you as you speak, 38 percent is related to your tone of voice and just seven percent has to do with the particular words you use. All this boils down to it’s not what you say... it’s how you say it.

    If you want better results from your presentations delivery focus on working the golden wedge, use whole body language effectively, and work with vocal variety to communicate far more than words alone will ever convey. The golden wedge is a concept of identifying where you will position yourself for your presentation. How you move in relationship to your audience, your visuals and your message has a lot to do with how you are perceived as a presenter and leader.

  2. Letting your audience’s mind wander. You can capture both the eye and the mind of your audience by using simple techniques to show only one idea or concept at a time with builds and animations. I call this the Full Monty, the Build, and the Reveal and Conceal. The Full Monty shows the entire bullet list with a single click of the mouse. The Build shows each bullet item one at a time leaving the previous bullet items showing. The Reveal and Conceal shows each bullet one at a time, then lets it fade into the background. Each of these has a purpose that is based on how you as the presenter want to show your hand to your audience.
  3. Uncertainty about where to stand and how to move relative to your audience or visuals. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is costly. Avoid blocking the view of your audience and upstaging yourself. Stagecraft has a lot to do with successful presentations. Using “Stage Front” becomes powerful when you use it infrequently. Use “Stage Front” at climatic moments and during your closing remarks.
  4. Failing to “win over” your audience early and often. Learn the strategies of persuasive presenting: powerful openings, solid story telling, smooth transitions and a call-to-action close.
  5. Backgrounds that set the wrong tone even before you begin. The color of your background alone is a mental stimulus. Some common colors raise pulse and heart rate while others have a relaxing effect. Choose your color and background images carefully.
  6. Using illegible visuals. Your audience cannot be moved by what it cannot see or read. Your visuals should be highly legible. Use a maximum of two fonts to make a more consistent and readable slide. Use a minimum of a 24-point font for bullet lists and a 54-point font for headlines. Keep chart and illustration labels a minimum of 18 points.
  7. Poorly chosen animation effects that embarrass you every time. The purpose of animation is to draw the eye and imagination to your content. No one reads words as they move. Basic builds, dissolves and timing can add enough drama while maintaining audience attention.

Any of these seven pitfalls can ruin your impression on the audience, causing you to appear awkward, disorganized, random in your style, or weak. Fine-tuning your delivery will propel you toward presentations with power and punch-you'll see far better results almost immediately.

David Gustafson is the author of You are the Show: Present Your Ideas With Power and publisher of the popular PowerPoint & Beyond! in Financial Services E-newsletter. To receive your free dose of presentation techniques and PowerPointÆ every month subscribe to the newsletter by subscribing online at www.breakthrough-dynamics.com. David is a nationally recognized presentation design and delivery coach. You can reach him in person at Break Through Dynamics LLC (909) 985-3959


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