The Ten Deadly Sins of Presentation
- Posted on: 6/19/08
- 0 Comments
- 2903 reads
Mistake #1: Not planning for the proper amount of time.
How many meetings have you attended where the presenter says, I've got a lot of slides. We're going to fly through this information. Stay with me, since we only have a short period of time? For the next 60 minutes, you see a myriad of slides, with the speaker flipping through them almost as if you're watching a moving picture. With all due respect to individuals who have spent hours, days, months and years in research, you can't take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Presenters must format their presentations to fit the exact amount of time available. It's best to allow approximately two to three minutes per slide. If you have an hour to present, you should have no more than 20 to 30 slides. In most cases, the material is far more complex than what can be communicated in a 60-minute presentation. With that in mind, it's up to the speaker to make a decision as to the most important information to be conveyed.
Mistake #2: Writing of the dialogue instead of the outline.
In most presentations to a large group, a speaker will use PowerPoint slides. Speakers must remember that they are the presentation, not the slides. Visual aids should be used to assist the presentation, not become the presentation. Although you may want to include long dialogue in any handouts, there is no need to print it word-for-word in your PowerPoint slides. Bullet points are just that bullet points. Slides should not be in full sentences.
Mistake #3: TMI (too much information) on one page.
There is an easy rule to follow, called the rule of 6's. This rule dictates no more than six lines of information per page. One of the PowerPoint features is automatic sizing of information to fit on a page. If you have too much information, the font is automatically reduced and the result can be very difficult for the audience to read. What happens if you have ten points of information? Go to a second page. Eliminate unnecessary words. As you are reading through your presentation, if there is any word that is not essential, eliminate it.
Mistake #4: Reading to and from the screen.
Most of us were taught at an early age to look someone in the eye when we speak to them, a basic rule of etiquette. Reading directly from the screen breaks eye contact. It's easy to fall into this trap, especially if speakers also commit Mistake #2. Writing all of the dialogue subconsciously forces us to read from the page rather than addressing the audience. Not only does reading from the screen reduce your effectiveness, it is also rude. Don't say what someone else can read for themselves. If there is a direct quote you want to say word for word, don't turn your back on the audience. Read it from the side so you are somewhat facing your group or have a laptop positioned in front of you so you can look at it and your group at the same time.
Mistake #5: Your font is too small.
A 32-point font is a good readable size whether you are speaking to a small or large group. A 28-point font is still usable; however, if you go any smaller, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to read. Going back to Mistake #3, if speakers have so much information that PowerPoint sizes it down to fit the page, put the information on two pages.
Mistake #6: Text in red.
Using red for anything that needs to be read is a no-no. It is difficult to read and even causes eye strain. When LCDs first came out they weren't that bright (ANSI lumens) and you had to darken the room in order to make a presentation. Many people used white backgrounds and dark print. Now that the projectors are much brighter, I like to use a dark background with light print. The main point is to pick colors that are easy to read and will create a strong contrast with whatever color background you use.
Mistake #7: Not practicing your presentation.
You don't jump right in on a procedure until you know what you are doing. It's a process of studying, learning and practicing. The same holds true for presentations. Practice your presentation over and over before making it to your group. Use a video camera or just a simple tape recorder so you can see and/or hear how your presentation comes across. Most of us don't like how we look on video or sound on tape, but both are effective tools in helping to polish presentations.
Mistake #8: Moving without purpose.
Some speakers feel they must walk from side to side in order to connect with each person in the audience. However, unless done with a purpose, this is the farthest thing from the truth and this movement is more distracting than helpful. I do like to use a lavaliere-type microphone so I am not chained to the podium. It gives the ability for greater movement and an enhanced presentation. You also must watch for distracting movements that will take away from your presentation, such as leaning to one side or the other, leaning side to side and shuffling your feet.
Mistake #9: Staying inside the lines.
If you've ever taken acting classes, one of the things you learn is that your movements must enlarge. When we talk one-on-one or in a small group, speakers may gesture with their hands. However, in front of a larger group, small gestures get lost. If you draw lines from your shoulders to your hips, it forms a box. Move outside this box in front of a large audience. If you want to make a point, such as indicating number one, in a small group, you would indicate it right in front of you at about chest level. In front of a large group, you want to hold your hand out in front of you and above your head. Gestures should come from your shoulder, not your elbow.
Mistake #10: Your presentation does not match your audience.
It's important to know the makeup of the audience. If you are speaking to a group of peers, heavy technical information is certainly appropriate. If you are giving a presentation entitled An Introduction to the Cath Lab, keep the information at a level that new staff can understand.
No matter where you speak, make your time valuable and make it count. Deliver the right amount of information, in the right amount of time and in a manner in which people will understand. You will find your presentations more effective, and if you like doing it, you'll probably get asked to do more.
David Stein is a motivational speaker who lives in Tyler, Texas with his wife and three daughters. He can be contacted at (903) 534-0425 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org