Public speaking skills are often glossed over in management and leadership training programs, and yet most leaders are expected to engage in public speaking regularly. Often, leaders who are uncomfortable speaking in public will develop intricate PowerPoint presentations, and then read verbatim from note cards.
These boring talks quickly lose employee interest, and fail to gain buy-in from potential investors. The following common mistakes made when designing a presentation should be avoided at all costs.
One of the most likely mistakes to catch the attention of your audience is the presence of spelling errors. It may seem like it’s not that big of a deal, but it shows a lack of professional attention and respect for the message you are trying to convey.
Similarly, improper punctuation or inconsistent formatting from slide to slide makes it appear as if the presentation was slapped together at a moment’s notice. Leaders are responsible for projecting a polished and professional front, and a sloppy presentation does not fit.
Another hot-button mistake seen in presentations is overwhelming your audience with busy slides. Text should be limited to brief, informative bullet points, and should never appear as giant single-paragraph walls of text. Pictures and graphs should also be limited to one or two per slide at the most, and should be sized so that axis labels are easily read and the image does not become pixilated.
Overly packed slides, whether filled with text or overlapping images, are hard to digest and will quickly alienate the audience.
It may be tempting to break up walls of text or introduce multiple images with animation settings, but it is important to ensure that these are used with care.
Having each separate bullet fly onto the screen may look neat during practice, but during a professional presentation this continuous motion can be distracting. If you really feel the need to add motion to the transitions in your presentation, a single animation should be selected for use between slides or when introducing layers on a slide.
While it is important to take steps to ensure your presentations look professional, it is equally important that they sound professional. A quality presentation will never contain slang words, and should actively work to avoid industry “buzz words”.
These terms to not add to the presentation content, and may give the audience the impression that your work is based on smoke and mirrors and not the well-researched solid facts you intended to present.
The final fatal flaw to any good presentation is poor planning and execution.
Nothing will lose an audience faster than watching a presenter fumbling to find and plug in a flash drive or scrolling through their email account to download the file, only to find that it is incompatible with the system being used for the presentation process. Professional presenters should always save their documents in multiple formats to both external media and an online file sharing system, and arrive with adequate time to load presentation files onto the computer to be used and test to make sure everything works properly.
The best public speakers take the time to ensure that their presentation is free of these types of amateur mistakes, and that their performance of the presentation matches the polished sequence of their visual aids. Skilled presenters spend hours practicing their material until they find the best possible wording for each slide, and their discussion of their project flows naturally.
Senior Trainer & Consultant