Avoid Too Much Data
This can be a tempting trap in tech presentations, but going on and on about technical specs or minute, painstaking statistics can be a huge drain on the energy of your presentation.
How to Fix It: Try to think of your presentation as a conversation and not so much as an endless list of data and statistics. The fine print is important, but in front of a room full of people those kind of details can put people to sleep. Keep your message simple and direct and your audience will be clamoring to check out the numbers on your website.
Take Notes from the Best
Who could forget the iconic image of Steve Jobs speaking at any of Apple’s conferences? Like him or not, you have to admit the founder and CEO of one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories definitely had a flair for theatricality.
How to Fix It: This isn’t so much a fix as a matter of preparation. As you prepare to make that big pitch, consider taking a look at the work of others who you admire and seeing how to bring those attributes to your own work.
Less Questions, More Answers
You know that annoying habit people have? When they end everything in a question? That’s what this is. You want to convey a sense of control and a presence that instills confidence, but this is impossible if you’re constantly asking your audience for approval. It’s fine to check in a few times to make sure everyone is following you on certain things, but constantly asking questions when you’re trying to state facts isn’t helping anyone out.
How to Fix It: Consider recording yourself to see if you are unconsciously making this mistake, as most people don’t even realize when they’re doing it. Then practice your presentation until you’re comfortable enough that this lack of confidence gets ironed out.
Focus On Telling a Story
Everyone is a sucker for a good story, and a narrative is a great way to deliver talking points in a nice, neat package. If it works with your presentation, a story makes your speech instantly recognizable and will ideally have points tailored to stick in people’s heads and have them talking about what you had to say long after you’re finished saying it.
How to Fix It: If you’re more of a math person and don’t have as much background in writing, do some research online and some critical thinking about how to develop your presentation into a flowing narrative with a cohesive beginning, middle and end. This is another strategy where it can’t hurt to take a look at how well-polished speakers in the industry do it.
Make It Short and Sweet
We’ve all been in a presentation that dragged on too long, and it can be brutal. Ideally you want to be remembered for what you say, not how long you took to say it. It’s best to get your point across in as few words as possible and leave them wanting more.
How to Fix It: There’s a very good chance you could shave at least five minutes out of your presentation. Try doing this and see if you’re satisfied with the result. If you’re still getting your point across, consider going with this new, leaner approach. Your audience will probably thank you.
Repeat Things to Stay on Target
These days more than ever, attention spans are at a premium. Repetition provides a good cohesion to the narrative you’re presenting. What’s more, it makes sure your audience is listening (and fills in those who maybe missed what you were saying the first time).
How to Fix It: Look for organic places in your presentation to link things you said using repetition. This will make everything hang together very nicely.
Clarity, Clarity, and More Clarity
For some people it can be tempting to use technical jargon or technical specifications, and that’s fine for some all-tech audiences, but keep in mind the other people in the room if you’re in mixed company. It would be a shame to confuse some people because they don’t know what something like C ++ is or worse alienate them because they think you’re speaking over them. If some people in your audience are not tech savvy, make sure to leave room for them at the table.
How to Fix It: If you have a presentation in front of a non-tech crowd, consider having a friend or relative who doesn’t work in the industry take a look at your talking points to make sure they all make sense.
Don’t Hide What Everybody Already Knows
Employees respect CEOs with the backbone to address the elephant in the room. If your company is suffering cutbacks, a presentation may be a good time to address the setbacks and open up a dialogue about what’s going on, rather than trying to stifle concerns with clever catch phrases like “rightsizing.” If you’ve hired smart people, they should be able to see right through those weak turns of phrase and that will only end up building resentment under the surface.
How to Fix It: Lose the corporate catch-phrases if you have them.
If you have a habit of stammering or injecting “uh” every three seconds when speaking, don’t.
If you’re very self-conscious about this aspect of presenting, tape record yourself and listen to see how you do.
How to Fix It: If you’re not fully comfortable doing public speaking, consider joining a group like Toastmasters where you can work on your skills in a less high-pressure environment.
“Taking the bull by the horns” and referring to creative thinking as “out of the box” are tired cliches, but believe it or not they still pop up often in business presentations.
How to Fix It: This one’s easy. Just go back through your remarks and make sure to drop any boring, derivative phrases you might have and you should be all good. If you’re saying something you’ve heard a thousand times, chances are your audience has too.