In the business world, giving presentations is akin to oxygen. How important are presentation skills? According to Forbes and Harris, 70% of people agree that they are critical to success at work. Whether you’re trying to raise money for a new venture, convince potential clients to give you their business or simply report on the present situation of the company, you’re going to need an effective presentation. Done right, a presentation will boost morale, improve results and boost productivity.
Unfortunately, some people never got the memo. From billion-dollar businesses all the way down, mistakes are made. Here are 22 of the most common mistakes that are made in business presentations.
Not Knowing Your Audience
Every audience is unique. Our job as a presenter is to create a presentation that resonates with their desires. Age, background, location, experience, all play a factor. That means custom-designing each presentation to fit your audience. The more data you have on your audience beforehand, the better you can craft your presentation to fit their needs.
Lack of insights
Most people say they want data in presentations especially in Executive Business Reviews, but what they really want are insights. Insights tell a narrative and explain how the data was reached. The last question you want your audience to think is “Why should I care?”
Poor Prep for Questions
Preparation is key. No low-ball questions. Have colleagues ask you tough questions. The tougher the questions, the better prepared you’ll be.
Never underestimate the power of smiling. A smile conveys confidence and puts the audience at ease. It’s one of the key components of Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People and the proof is in the pudding.
Avoiding the Problems
Objection raising is one of the single most powerful tools in any presentation. Joseph Sugarman in his book Triggers explains that the best thing you can do is be upfront about any problems your clients will find. Never try and sweep them under the rug. Doing so can disarm your audience, making them see you as more honest and trustworthy.
Lack of Solutions
You can’t simply raise a problem. Once you’ve opened a can of worms, you have to offer solutions or find ways to turn the negative into a positive. Sugarman calls this concept “objection resolution.”
Not Considering Culture Differences
Those educated or raised in the US and England tend to use applications-first reasoning which means conclusions are reached based on a pattern of factual observations from the real world. To put it simply, they focus less on the why and more on the how. Compare this to people educated in France, Spain, Germany or Japan who use principles-first reasoning which derives conclusions or facts from general principles or concepts.
People who use applications-first reasoning want people to get straight to the point and make your argument upfront. Those using principles-first reasoning want just the opposite – they want you to make your argument effectively by explaining and validating the concept underlying your reason before coming to conclusions and examples.
Presidents JFK, Clinton and Obama were known for their oratory skills. A quick YouTube search will reveal that they tend to speak in short burst of about eight words at a time making longer sentences more easily understood.
Always follow the K.I.S.S. rule. Keep it super simple. Steve Jobs’ famous speech on the iPod is a master class explaining why it’s a game-changer in terms everyone could understand. Turns out he was right.
More is not better
Anyone can create a long presentation but creating a cohesive, short, convincing presentation is a challenge. As Da Vinci once said, “Simplification is the ultimate sophistication.” I always tell my clients, less is more.
For a presentation to be effective, it must meet the three M’s – memorable, measurable, meaningful.
Don’t do what Al Gore did. In 45 minutes, he tried to deliver his 130-point presentation on climate change. Naturally, it was a disaster.
Speed conveys a message. Too fast, you seem nervous. Too slow, you run the risk of people zoning out.
Lack of, or overuse of visuals
Pictures really do tell 1000 words. A good visual can help clarify concepts and ideas that are hard to grasp simply with language. However, there is such a thing as too much. You want a balance between visuals, graphs and bullet points to get your message across.
Too much information. Human beings can only process a certain amount of data at a time. Don’t try and overload them with too much data in one go. Instead, give them just enough to get your message across. Follow the rule – one slide, one message.
This is a killer. Reading tells your audience you don’t know your material well enough. It also brings up bad memories from our high school days.
Fails the Billboard Test
Taught to me by Ryan Hurst over at GMB Fitness. When you’re driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour, billboards only have seconds to make an impact. Your slides need to do the same. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, today, we have 5 seconds to capture people’s interest.
Not Guiding your Audience’s Eyes
Lists, tables and data are full of valuable information, unfortunately, audience members are often forced to search them. Make them easy to follow using different fonts, size, bold and contrast.
Non-verbal Communication Fail
60% of our message is conveyed through words. The other 40% is body language and tonality. As my wife reminds me, “It’s not what you said, but how you said it.” The same applies for presentations which brings me to my final point.
No Video Camera
Want to know if you’re doing a good job presenting? Grab your smartphone, record yourself, then watch it. Observe hand gestures, eye contact, voice inflection, and ask one important question – “What message are you unconsciously sending your clients?”
Dress for success that used to mean a suit and tie, no longer. Today, it’s more about your product, the audience and the message you want to convey. If you’re not sure, it’s best to dress conservatively. That way, it will allow people to focus on what is being said, not what you’re wearing.