Presentations are one of the best ways to communicate information to your audience. A presentation conveys more than words, it also provides visual and vocal cues that helps your audience pay attention to the whole message you are trying to deliver. However, there are some common presentation mistakes that speakers do that can make or break their presentation. If you want to take your presentations from good to great, avoid making these 5 mistakes on your next PowerPoint slideshow.
1. You didn’t rehearse and your timing is off.
Rehearsals provide a chance to practice with the room setup and equipment you’ll be using in your actual talk. This is also a good time to try out different versions of your ideas and see what works best. If you don’t have time to rehearse before the presentation, at least run through it in your head as many times as possible beforehand.
2. Your slides are too crowded with information.
Keep it simple: It’s really easy to get carried away with what you have to say, but if you make sure every image makes an impact and takes up only as much space as it needs, your audience won’t be overwhelmed by what you’re saying or distracted by how the presentation looks.
A presentation is not just a series of facts and figures, it’s an experience! The audience should be able to follow along easily and not have to flip back and forth between slides (unless you’re going for the “bumper slide” effect).
This is a problem I see often, because some people take the attitude that they can pack more information on one slide than others might fit in an entire presentation. This is a mistake, because it goes against the purpose of a presentation: to tell your story in a way that engages your audience.
3. You’re using too much jargon and acronyms that confuse people instead of explaining things in plain English.
We are tempted to use big words because we think it makes us sound smarter. But when we do that, we don’t connect with our audience because they get lost in our words and terms. The minimalist approach is more effective: Use the simplest possible language that still conveys your meaning.
4. You weren’t yourself.
It’s important to consider who your audience is when you’re preparing a presentation—but not so much that you end up trying (and often failing) to be someone else. It’s okay to change your tone for certain audiences, but don’t try to adopt an entirely different persona for every single room you step into.
Instead, stick with what works for you: if you’re funny, be funny; if you’re serious, be serious; if you like using pop culture references, use them! Just make sure that whatever style or personality traits you choose match your personality as well as the subject matter of the speech. If your audience can sense that something feels off, they’ll tune out or start looking at their phones instead of paying attention.
5. You sped through it.
Don’t speak too fast! It’s tempting to speed through a presentation when you’re nervous, but slow down and try to relax. You’ll be more effective if you take the time to speak clearly and calmly so that your audience can hear and understand you.
Overall, the key takeaway is to confirm that you’re keeping your audience in mind. What do they need to know? What do they want to know? Pay attention to your presentation as if you were in the audience. Does it flow? Are there any holes or missing sections? As long as you make a point of thinking like the audience, you can avoid making these mistakes in your next PowerPoint presentation.