Presenting Pitfalls and Cardinal Sins

Sometimes don’ts can be as helpful as dos.

Here’s a list of fundamental presentation pitfalls to be avoided at all costs.

Give these a miss and your presentation will be A-ok.

1. Don’t be boring

The big one, the only that really matters. If you bore your audience then none of your presentation will stick. No one will care what you are speaking about; they will just want to make a break for the exits before their will to live evaporates.

Being bored is torture; humans find it unendurable. After enduring a long stretch of boredom many well balanced folk begin to question their reason for living. Boredom forces you into dark places where life feels meaningless.

This is not the impact you want from your presentation.

Just don’t be boring.  


2. Don’t be insulting

Treat your audience with respect. Show humility.

No one likes to be insulted, or to be the butt of the joke.

No one likes to be brayed at by an arrogant braggart.

Your presentation is an offering, a gift. It is not a mallet, nor is it the greatest show on Earth.


3. Don’t be late

Get there early.

For your sake. For your audience’s sake.

There’s no worse start to any public speech than a grumpy audience and a presenter on the back foot.


4. Don’t be too quiet or too fast

Speak up, speak out. Be clear.

Slow down. Give the audience space to take in what you’re saying, and understand you.


5. Don’t apologise (unless you’re late or have insulted someone!)

We all make mistakes, and in front of an audience any little error feels magnified.

Truth is, your audience probably won’t have noticed it, and if they have all they will want to see is the presenter dealing with it smoothly, staying professional and carrying on.

A mistake is an opportunity to show off your professional skills.


6. Don’t forget your audience

What’s in it for them?

Never waste their time.

The minutes you spend presenting to them must add value to their lives. Otherwise they’d be better off doing their washing.


7. Don’t worry about questions

Trainees always ask, “What’s the best way to handle questions?”

Answer them.

If you can’t answer, see if anyone else can.

If no one can, make a note of the question, find the answer and get back to them at a later date.

No one knows all the answers.

David Windle