All of my courses in college have a presentation component in the grading basket. I remember vividly one of the presentation sessions that did not go well for a classmate. He had spent the whole night making the ‘perfect’ presentation. The presentation had all the points written in a beautiful layout. When he was called on to present, the instructor found him redundant and asked him to merely be a human slide changer. The instructor’s feedback was that my classmate could have auto-timed the slide changer; saving the time that he spent manually pushing the slides: Ouch!
When I heard this, I was bewildered, and I asked my classmate to present it to me. That’s when the problems became apparent. In this post, I have 4 commonly made presentation mistakes (which were in his presentation as well) and the ways to correct them.
- The Deck: When we think of presentations, slide decks are the first thing that comes to our mind. So naturally, it needs to be good. But a good presentation does not make the speaker redundant as it did in the case of my classmate by having all the relevant information on it. A good presentation aids the presenter by presenting a teaser of the upcoming topic keeping the spotlight on the speaker. A good rule of thumb is the 80–20 rule. Write only 20% of the information about a topic on the slide and retain the 80% for your speech. It gets better if that 20% of the data is a visual aid like a graph or a picture. Remember the deck is just a tool in your masterful hands and not the master itself.
- The Why: Another mistake that my classmate made and one that I have seen many people do while presenting is acting like they are news readers. They read out the facts and expect everyone to appreciate and engage with it. The problem is we humans are not wired for purely facts; to engage with a content we need a story. So, make sure you bring a story into your presentation. You can weave the story throughout your presentation or can use it as an anecdote to begin your presentation. But make the audience buy a stake in your content by leveraging a good story. Give them a reason to listen to you by telling them why you are saying whatever it is that you are saying.
- The How: Best laid plans can go awry if not execute right. The most important part of the presentation is you, as we have established. So, you have to embody the best version of yourself. Invest some time for video recorded dry runs to fix your stage manners. Some of the key things to keep in mind:
a. Stand tall with your shoulders rolled back and chin parallel to the floor.
b. Use the lower end of your voice spectrum
c. Do not use filler words like ‘um’ and ‘ah’. Embrace the silence instead, allowing everyone to catch a breath.
d. Do not apologise for being there. Own up the space and the room.
4. A small game won’t hurt: Use a small activity or a game to actively engage them. I once had my instructor sing in class which warmed up the entire class to my presentation. So, it is permitted, do not be afraid to involve your audience to help you with a demonstration or assist you with something.
All that is left to be done is for you to apply these and ace your next presentation.