In part one of this blog, I discussed some of the most common reasons that your last presentation went off the rails. Here’s part two of the 10 reasons your last presentation was a disaster. As mentioned before, I learned about all of these mistakes the hard way.
Big Mistake #6: You didn’t make the really hard, but really necessary, choices
You tried to cover yourself by including just about everything your company has ever done and now, not only is your presentation way too long, it’s completely without focus. I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of worrying “but what if they ask about this” or “our competitors might mention this,” but at some point, you have to decide what your presentation is really about and make some tough decisions. If it makes you feel safe, take those slides you agonized over but ultimately decided to cut and stick them at the end of the presentation or use the “skip slide” feature in PowerPoint or Keynote so the information is right there if needed.
Big Mistake #7: You buried the big idea
While putting the deck together you got so “into the weeds” of your own little world that you assumed your audience would know how all the pieces fit together. They don’t. You’ve probably seen the studies that state that people only remember two or three things about a presentation. What is it you want them to remember about yours? This isn’t a murder mystery where you want your audience to painstakingly piece clues together and deduce the big idea. The best way to convey to your audience the most important thing about your presentation? Tell them. There’s a slide many presentations often end with called “Key Takeaways” that really should be called “I know you’re going to forget 97% of what I’ve said over the last hour, so here’s what I really want you to remember.”
Big Mistake #8: You failed to remember that a presentation is about … well, presenting
Yes, you practiced, but you thought of your presentation as a monologue that would be delivered in a vacuum, and were so worried about what’s bullet four again and is my fly down and why is my voice so high and dear God is this almost over that you didn’t make eye contact, smile and put some enthusiasm behind what you were saying. Try to remember that you’re presenting, not being waterboarded. Are you petrified you’re going to stumble over your words or lose your train of thought because you’re so nervous? Congratulations, you’re just like every other presenter since the dawn of time.
Another tip: practice, practice, practice … but don’t memorize. The problem with memorization — and I’ve been there — is that if you forget just a few words or get even a little bit off track, you’re sunk.
Big Mistake #9: You weren’t you
You imitated the body language of experts you saw on YouTube, bought a pair of uncomfortable shoes you can barely walk in and did everything but put on a fake English accent to try and appear like a slick presenter who does this every day — and by doing so, deprived your audience of what they wanted to see: a real person. Trying to act like Tony Robbins when you’re an introvert or straight-laced when you’re a free spirit is a recipe for a really bad presentation.
I guess what I’m really talking about here is that if you’re a numbers guy who geeks out on spreadsheets, fly your geek flag. If there’s a part of the presentation you think is really strong and that you’re excited about, let the audience feel your enthusiasm. Be yourself.
Big Mistake #10: After the presentation, you were too hard and too easy on yourself
The absolute disaster that happened 15 minutes in? The flop sweat you had to keep wiping off your brow? The video that didn’t play the first two times? When Frank called the client by the wrong name five times in less than a minute? I know it’s hard to believe, but chances are your audience either shrugged it off or didn’t even notice. Let it go.
But here’s not what to let go: what you learned, what went well, what you would do differently next time. This is the tough part, but everyone, from a first time presenter to a seasoned vet, can get better at presenting, be more articulate, better prepared and more engaging. Think about a star presenter you’ve worked with, that big hitter who can get up and talk about anything and have people on the edge of their seats. Forget about them being beautiful, their perfect teeth, their angelic voice. My experience is that these people are almost always the most prepared presenter in the group. Not only that, but because they’re great, they want to do better, so they spend more time than the rest of us thinking about their performance, asking people what they did wrong and begging for one more practice round next time.
So I’ve listed 10 reasons your last presentation was a disaster. What did I miss?