Top 6 presentation pitfalls – and what you can do about them!


We have seen an estimated 4000 presentations in the past three years. While loads have been great, there are a few of course that tend to follow some unfortunate patterns!  Here are the top six presentation pitfalls in reverse order:

6. Worshipping at the altar of PowerPoint

Too many people stare at PowerPoint rather than maintaining eye contact, and therefore dialogue, with the audience.

Recently we trained a global logistics company in presentation skills. There was one problem common to everyone: their presentations all suffered because of their use of PowerPoint. They were stilted in speech, turned their back on the audience and let the screen take over the presentation.

We placed a temporary ban on the use of PowerPoint in the second day of the training and by the end the audience was receiving lots of eye contact and we felt the presenter was actually establishing a connection with us.

Most of the training delegates vowed on the spot that they will greatly reduce their dependence on PowerPoint!

We’re not calling for the eradication of PowerPoint – just its correct use. Seth Godin has an excellent PDF called Really Bad PowerPoint – you can get it for free… …here

5. Too many features, not enough benefits

Whether explaining something to a group, selling a product or producing a project update, most presentations are feature-heavy.  Features are things – dry data. 

For example, a feature of the new i-pod is called “Shazam”.  That alone tells us very little.  What does that i-pod feature actually do to help me?  (As you may know, the really cool thing about it is that you hold it up to a sound source for a few seconds, for example a car stereo, and it will tell you what song is playing, and the artist, and where to buy it.  And no, it doesn’t do it when you sing into it…)

And speaking about records, most presentations sound like a stuck record because they are feature-heavy.  And another thing, and another thing…”.

Benefits are much better than features as they make your presentation personally relevant for the audience. For example: The new HR Intranet is a feature, but the benefit of this is that each employee will save up to a day a year by not relying on paper based HR applications and forms.

4. Not enough examples!

Examples are a brilliant way to help your audience understand and buy into your message or vision.

The problem is when we present we tend to either forget or undervalue examples. There are always room for more.

For example recently I heard a presentation from a key account manager talking about the various packages they offer customers. The presentation wasn’t bad, but was devoid of examples, and as such didn’t give the audience anything to sink their teeth into.

The newly revised presentation that we loaded with examples was brilliant.

3. Over-egging  your company omellette

Sorry if I’m the first to let you know this, but audiences are typically bored by: the history of your company, how many locations you have, your structure, too much about why you are different, too much background to various projects – and anything else that doesn’t benefit them (see point 5).

If you must mention this sort of stuff, make it a minor part of your presentation or keep it for a handout/question time.

Tip: Talk about the audience more and yourself less.

2. Drawing attention to your mistakes

If you make a mistake, the probability is the audience didn’t notice it.

The probability becomes a certainty however when you draw attention to it.

If you make a mistake, just move on.

No need to apologise, particularly about “This hopeless technology, it always lets you down doesn’t it?” (yawn).

1. Cheesy company phrases

  • “Our people are your greatest asset”
  • “We have value-add solutions”
  • “We are an agent of change”
  • “We are looking for synergies”

Etc.  Leave out the cheese and tell us what you really mean! Bring some personality to your presentation.

For example, if people really are your greatest asset, then tell us about what makes them great:

“Rachel personally drove to Manchester one night to help a client prepare their financial statements” says a lot more about your people.

They are a few of the mistakes that regularly come up during our presentation skills training workshops.  Give us a call if you would like some help with your team’s presentations!

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