5 common presentation mistakes

Save your next talk by avoiding the 5 common presentation mistakes professionals make when they present.


For the past years we’ve flown all over the world to bring Prezentology methodology to companies via our presentation an public speaking trainings.

We assumed every company would have its own set of problems. After delivering trainings in many different European cities for companies from different sectors from pharma, tech, FMCG we realized people across all companies repeatedly make the same 5 common presentation mistakes. It doesn’t matter what industry, the age of the company, or the caliber of employees, a bad presentation is bad for the same reasons.

The following list includes all the 5 common presentation mistakes, which are easy to avoid.


  1. You assume that your audience has the same personality as you do


Often, we don’t think about who is our audience and what are they like. Are they extroverts or introverts, thinkers or feelers, judgers or perceivers? We tend to think that they are similar to us. The chances are that each of them have different communication style and preferences. One might want to get all the facts, other prefer a big picture and so on. When thinking about our next presentation with your managers or team segment the audience and determine who the decision maker is among the people you are trying to persuade and then tailor your arguments to that person´s decision-making style.


  1. You confuse agenda with presentation´s objectives


Will you go to see the movie knowing everything about it including the ending? I doubt. Too often corporate presentations start with the same, boring agenda. One after another we present what we are going to talk about in the next 20 minutes or so. Agenda kill any element of surprise and brings unnecessary expectations from the audience, they might have already their own standpoints about the subjects you are going to present and they simply won´t be interested or engaged.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter, agenda is not the same as your presentation´s objectives. For your talk to be effective you need to map out the audience´s journey and analyze where do you want your audience to think and do after they leave your presentation.


  1. You present information in order that make sense to you


It has happened to you before. You call a meeting to try to convince your boss or team that your company needs to make an important move and go in that direction. You have all the arguments and data. Two weeks later, though, you learn that your proposal has been tabled. What went wrong? Probably you didn´t tailor your arguments to the decision maker´s communication style as we mentioned in point 1.  Also, you might have sequenced your presentation in a traditional linear way slide after slide. We have to remember that what make sense to us, doesn’t necessarily make sense to others. You need to stand out and lift your presentation and messages out of traditional way. It is no longer enough “to do the things we have always done them”, we have to innovate if we want to stay ahead of the game.


  1. You use colors, pictures graphics to make presentation look pretty


Good design is what good design does. A good design is as little design as possible. “Dieter Rams makes the distinction between the common “Less is more” and his strongly advised “Less, but better”. Focus only on making your point clearer and highlight the most important data. Good design is useful design. And yes, usefulness can include qualitative (“attractive”) as well as quantitative (“usable”) metrics. Do not beautify slides, because they will distort your message. Think about what you want to say and illustrate it. SmartArt is very good at it and easy to use. Slides should show, not tell (text and bullet points) the audience how…


  1. You don´t show emotions when presenting


Your connection to the audience is strongest when you effectively transfer your emotion to them. Are you sharing your emotions? Or are you speaking as if a paper bag hung between you and your audience? Facts alone are not enough to persuade. We need emotional content to move and persuade the audience. Think about the TED talk or even presentation at your company you liked the most? I´m sure it was the one that moved your emotions in some way. Emotions make presentation memorable. So don´t be afraid to use them for your next presentation. It’s really a very simple concept — if you are feeling it, then show it.

If you are passionate about your proposal, show your passion.

If you are anxious, because results are going down, show your sorrow.

If you are excited about the good news, show the audience your excitement.

If you are confident about your recommendations, show your confidence.

If you are feeling ___, show ___.

Too often, speakers attempt to be “proper” or “dignified” when the occasion does not call for it. By masking their true emotions, they sacrifice authenticity and lose the audience. Do not be afraid to use the vast array of emotions and you will notice an impact you made on your audience long after your presentation was delivered.

So, after all those 5 common presentation mistakes, we need a happy ending, right? The good news is that if you can avoid making even a few of the presentation mistakes I described, you can easily avoid giving a bad presentation and even stand out as good presenter.


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