1. Focusing the presentation on what you want to tell you audience not on what they want to hear. Following solely your own agenda often leads to disengaged audiences. It is wise to remember that just because someone is in the room it does not mean they are listening or engaged. Have you ever been in a presentation but not really listening? If you want to earn the audience’s attention the presentation needs to be tailored to your audience and how you can help them resolve their problems or achieve more success.
In our book “High Performance Presentations” there is a whole chapter, with exercises dedicated to “audience preparation” because it is so important to consider before you begin to create your presentation or pitch. Think about who the audience is, what they want from you, what their problems are now, what are they scared or worried about and so on.
2. Spending too long preparing your presentation and not being effective with your time. Too many people spend hours and hours preparing their slides but no or minimal time before starting the slides on getting clear in their head what the structure and flow of the presentation should be. If you spend time at the beginning of the presentation working on the Simply Amazing Structure (SAS) it means that you have a track to run on and many of the slides are not needed. Any slides that are needed can be created quickly because you have clarity on the key point and messages. Once you get used to using the SAS it will take less time to prepare and the time you do use is super-efficient.
3. Taking advice from the boss on how to present. Sounds weird right, telling you not to listen to your boss! But if they are a different Presenter Personality Style from you then their advice will not suit your style and you will come across as awkward or not authentic. For example, we’ve worked with clients who are “Caring” style (people focused, calm thoughtful) who have been told by their “Results” boss (fact focused, fast, and driven) they need to be more like them! There is more than a grain of truth in that, it is good to learn to have executive presence and someone with a “Caring” preference may well need to get to the point more quickly. But if they try to do it in a “Results” way using their language and approach it will feel awful and they won’t do it. Everyone needs to find their own way to achieve those things in a manner that still fits within who they are and that’s what we do in our one to one coaching. If you want to learn even more about your “Presenter Personality Style” and how to optimise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses check out our free Video Library.
4. Letting your nerves impact your performance. If you allow nerves to take over your thought process it will affect your body language and cause the all-too-common side-effects like shortness of breath, going red and even making your mind go blank. We’ve written more about 17 symptoms of public speaking anxiety for those who want more, and these symptoms then perpetuate the problem as you present badly, lose your thought and say the wrong thing or create the very thing you were worried about! Don’t let your nerves impact your presentation, become a confident speaker by “Taming your Public Speaking Monkeys” with our book of the same name or training programmes.
5. Designing your presentation straight into PowerPoint. Too many people think that presentation preparation is opening the computer and typing up some slides. This prevents you from “telling the story” big picture and instead you move sequentially from slide 1 to slide 101! It is far more efficient to spend some time structuring your “story” that should run through your presentation in advance using our Simply Amazing Structure (SAS). This means that by the time you get to developing the slides (if you still need them) you are very clear on the story and purpose of each slide making it a quick, simple and efficient process.
6. Allowing the audience to see your nerves. Some people are nervous inside but manage to not show it on the outside, whilst this still isn’t ideal it is better than the audience seeing your nervous habits like shaky hands and avoidance of eye contact or any other of the 17 symptoms of public speaking anxiety. When the audience can see your nervous habits it tends to create doubt in their mind and question if what you are saying is true or if you are hiding something. This can lead to the feeling that you are often “defending” yourself in the questions section because they are trying to figure out what it is you are covering up!
7. Trying to be perfect and scripting the exact words you want to say. There are many problems with this not least that it puts too much pressure on you to either remember every single word or it means you keep looking at the script (or your slides which you use as a script) instead of the audience. Instead it is better to have a broad-brush outline using the SAS and then be able to talk around your key points. This gives a flow to your presentation and allows you to remain natural in your delivery style and flexible enough to adapt to the audience, their questions and any other topics that come up on the day.
8. Telling the audience how nervous you are! Whilst in some situations this may create empathy, in most business audiences this will decrease your authority, gravitas and lower your status meaning people are less likely to listen to you. (After all even you are unconsciously not sure you are worth listening to if you listen to those Public Speaking Monkeys!!) Avoid telling people how nervous you are, instead change your mindset and begin to think about more positive things – that’s what the monkey taming proves is all about.
9. Dreading the Q&A section. Many people hate the questions section because they are unsure of what is going to be asked and they worry about getting the answer wrong. Using the SAS approach gives you an opportunity to prepare for questions in advance so they aren’t unexpected and you can structure your presentation in a manner that will reduce confusion and misunderstandings in the first place. And because you’ve considered your audience at the very beginning, you’ll anticipate their needs and overcome any more obvious objections in the presentation content before the question even arises. Some of the most obvious questions you’ll get asked are:
I hope these lesser known mistakes and advice on how to avoid them has been helpful and we look forward to hearing your success stories soon – do get in touch on LinkedIn.
Dee Clayton and the team.