Three Things Not to Do in Your Presentations
“If you think presentations cannot enchant people, then you have never seen a really good one.”– Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley-based author, speaker, and entrepreneur
These articles are all about improving your presentation skills. I usually present three best practices to do in your presentations.
In this article, I do the opposite and answer the following question, “What are the three things you should not do in your presentations?”
Have you ever apologized to someone for some perceived transgression just to hear the other person say they hadn’t noticed the offense?
The same thing happens to many speakers. These speakers, of course, know precisely how their presentation is supposed to proceed. So, when something in their presentation goes wrong, they react with natural human behavior – they verbalize the faux pas. Unfortunately, the audience hears this faux pas. Perhaps you have done this yourself.
One of the fragile things for any speaker is credibility. It is a significant factor in whether your audience accepts your words.
When you verbalize your faux pas, you explicitly indicate to your audience that you did not prepare well enough to avoid the faux pas. This hurts your credibility and therefore detracts from your impact on your audience.
Verbalizing your presentation faux pas during your presentation is sometimes a hard habit to break. The best thing I have found is to prepare during your practice session.
So one of the things not to do in your presentations is apologize.
Another is not to go overtime.
Don’t Go Overtime
Think about past times you went to hear someone speak. Did you have the same feeling between your presentations that went under time as those that went overtime?
My guess is you and your audience had a better feeling about the presentations that went under time than those that went overtime. Why is this?
It is because your and everyone else’s time is precious. You and your audience can never get back lost time.
As a speaker, an ironclad rule you follow should be to never, never, never go over time.
You may be saying to yourself your audiences are unpredictable – that you can never anticipate what your audience will ask or how long their questions will be, or their responses to your answers to their questions.
How can you combat this faux pas of going over time?
Plan to talk for less time than you are allotted for your presentation.
Plan not to speak longer than 80% of your allotted time. The reason for this rule is when you deliver your presentation, your audience will react to what you say, and you will react to their reaction. This takes time, possibly past your allotted time.
No one has ever complained about a speaker presenting excellent content and finishing early. However, complaints about speakers who deliver amazing content but go over time are almost universal.
If you must “shave” some content from your presentation to stay within your time, do it.
So now you know two things not to do in your presentations – apologize and go over time.
The third and final not to do is introduce new material in your closing.
Don’t Introduce New Material in Your Closing
So, in your presentation opening, you gave your audience a preview of what you will talk about. You talk about it. Then in your closing, you summarized what you told them but also brought in new material—a bad move. Not only is your audience not expecting it, but you don’t have enough time to develop the material.
Hopefully, you are excited about your presentation topic and show it in your presentation. In your closing, you might want to include an extra fact or two about your topic. Don’t do it. You will only confuse your audience.
If you practice in front of a live audience, during their evaluation of your presentation, they will usually tell you that you introduced new material in your closing. This is the great benefit of practicing before a live audience. It is the closest you will come to the actual presentation with the additional benefit of the audience’s evaluation.
Imagine in a mystery novel, you were told about an additional criminal suspect after the crime has been solved. It doesn’t fit. Bringing in additional material in your presentation closing not covered before doesn’t fit either.
So three things not to do in your presentations are (1) apologize, (3) go over time, and introduce new material in your closing.
Avoid these pitfalls, and you will be well on your way to a successful presentation!
Call to Action
Never apologize in your presentations. It adversely affects your credibility.
Make it an ironclad rule not to go over time in your presentations. It will put you in a good light with your audience if you avoid this and a bad light with them if you don’t.
Never introduce new material in your presentation closing. It will confuse your audience at the worst possible time – at the end of your presentation. Your audience will most remember what you said last. Don’t make it new material.
“Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.”– Robert Greenleaf, founder of the modern servant leadership movement and the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”