In business, presentation skills are key. Being able to stand in front of a room and hold the attention of clients, superiors, or subordinates is key to your success. But being able to teach or convince a whole bunch of people at once is not a skill that we all possess. And as we hone our presentation skills, we may find that we’re still making mistakes. Here are a few of the most common ones. Watch out for these, and you’ll make yourself a better presenter.
Talking too fast
The most common presentation mistake of all is a tricky one to fix, but it’s something that we each need to keep in mind whenever we present. A presentation is not a typical conversation; if you’re driving home a point or explaining a complex topic, you shouldn’t race through your remarks and risk leaving your listeners behind. Furthermore, nervous presenters have a tendency to speed up and hurry themselves off of the stage.
Watch out for your speaking speed as you present. Be sure to enunciate clearly and pause for effect (or to let your listeners jot down a note). Keep things moving, but don’t let your words step on each other’s heels.
Moving around too much
Another common mistake that presenters make is excessive movement, experts say. We’ve probably all heard that presenters should not stand stock-still when they give their presentation; we’re supposed to look relaxed and move around a bit to keep the audience’s attention. But moving to address different parts of your audience or gesturing to call attention to a point is not the same thing as swaying endlessly or wandering about in front of your audience as if you’re lost. You need to be careful not to look antsy, bored, or confused when you’re up there. Move deliberately, and stand in a relaxed but upright way (and no swaying, please).
Presenting printed materials sloppily
A good handout can be a big help in a professional presentation. In many cases, a business presentation comes along with a full written report. You naturally want your clients or co-workers to read and respect what you’ve worked so hard on. But it will take more than a great presentation to win them over.
Invest in quality printed materials to hand out at your presentation. You should customize pocket folders, binders, or presentation covers to organize and brand your materials with. The details matter in business presentations, so don’t let a sloppy handout with typos or a dollar-store folder make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
You know your stuff. You know how you’re supposed to speak, and you know what PowerPoint slides are supposed to show up when. So when something goes wrong in your presentation, you know right away. But don’t apologize. Just fix the problem and get back to what you were doing.
When you apologize, it seems like you’re uncertain in your role as presenter. On top of that, it calls attention to issues that, in all likelihood, your audience had not even noticed. After all, the people listening to your presentation don’t know your topic or your presentation plans in the way that you do. So why make your audience uncomfortable by calling their attention to an error and then apologizing? While you should correct misinformation and may, at times, need to fix issues with your presentation materials, you should do so quickly and confidently, and then finish your presentation as if nothing had happened.