Presentations are part of the standard repertoire in many careers – whether this involves presenting to colleagues, customers, or the wider public. Nonetheless, even experienced speakers tend to repeat the same mistakes and fall into the same traps when presenting. Charisma, a self-confident posture and flawless delivery are ideal conditions to ensure a successful presentation – but if the presentation, which is designed to improve the speech by adding visual impact, is sub-optimal, the audience’s attention will quickly wander. A PowerPoint presentation should support the speech or lecture, and break it down into manageable sections to help the audience’s understanding of its content. Unfortunately, the opposite is quite often true, and you should avoid the following mistakes at all costs:
1. Presenting word-for-word
How can I make my audience as tired as possible? Precisely by reading a presentation off the screen, word by exhausting word. Nobody, but nobody, has any desire to listen to a lecture that they can read at the same time. It’s not just a waste of time: it’s actually rude to the audience, who have attended in the hope of an interesting, well-prepared presentation. By creating presentations that contain full sentences, rather than bullet points, the writing tends to get smaller and smaller, because so much space is taken up by all that text. The result is that the audience is not just forced to listen to a monotonous, unemotional presentation; they are also frustrated by the illegible presentation in the background.
2. Choosing the wrong typeface
The importance of choosing the right typeface for a presentation is often underestimated. This leads to crimes such as the use of Comic Sans in a futile attempt to add a little artistic humor to the presentation. Or maybe a crazy font will offer something for the ladies?!?!?!? A tip: save your ‘unique’ typeface for your next birthday card and stick with a professional, neutral typeface for your slides. In addition, it’s important to ensure that the font can clearly be read from far away: the letters should not be too tightly spaced, and the typeface shouldn’t be either too thin or too bold.
3. Overloading slides
All presenters have countless ideas in their heads that they’re desperate to share with the public. So does this mean that more is better? Not where the layout of PowerPoint presentations is concerned. If your aim is to win your audience over by adding as many buttons, text boxes, movies and images as possible, the only sure bet is an audience that’s thinking about something else. If, however, the slides are not just too full, but also part of an apparently endless series, you can pretty much give up. Where PowerPoint presentations are concerned, it’s abundantly clear that less is more. Concentrate on the most important facts and deliver your message clearly and in the right order.
4. Using complicated statistics
Comprehensive statistics and multicolored graphics can of course highlight a particular topic and convey a sense of competence, but the more detailed statistics are, the less they contribute to the success of your presentation. The public finds it difficult to take in detailed facts and figures, particularly when they’re sitting a little further from the screen. If a complicated graphic is a determining factor in ensuring that the content is understood, it should be broken down into manageable chunks and shown in close-up; otherwise, hardly any of the audience will be able to grasp it in any meaningful way.
5. Showing off with special effects
PowerPoint can be used to achieve many great effects; images can fly into the page, rotating graphics can be displayed, and funny jingles can be played. However, hardly anyone will be able to remember the presentation if these animations made a real difference to the content. Too many special effects might get a laugh, and can even help the presentation remain in the audience’s memory – albeit never for the impressive, informative content. Special effects are great for slideshows at weddings and birthday parties, but not for a lecture that aims to be taken seriously.
6. Using poor quality pictures
A common tip that is offered to presenters is to make the content varied and entertaining, and frequently this involves using pictures. Visual stimuli can be the best way to keep the audience’s attention, but they also run the risk of turning the presentation into a laughing stock. Home-made vacation photos, scanned pictures from the 90s, or garish Word clipart have no business in a presentation. Opt instead for fewer, higher quality images. Tip: as copyright also applies to images used in public presentations, don’t simply use pictures from Google Image Search, but use license-free image content from recognized agencies.
7. Not making presentations available after the event
Even if you make a positive impression through a good speech with interesting content and effective PowerPoint support, there is still one completely avoidable mistake that you can make at the end. In this time of overstimulation and information overload, presentations are quickly forgotten and the content fizzles into oblivion. Even when the audience has made notes throughout, very few people look back over what they have written. Beamium can help here: not just during the presentation, when the audience can follow the presentation along on their own smartphone, tablet or notebook, but afterward, when the viewers retains access to the presentation via the same device. Individual topics and key concepts can then be recalled smoothly at any time via the presentation. As mountains of notes and files often sit in the mailbox without being read, Beamiumis a practical solution that, because it provides such direct access, allows presenters to remain uppermost in the audience's mind on a long-term basis.
If you follow these seven tips, you will definitely avoid the most common mistakes many presenters made in their careers. Of course, the dos and don'ts in presentations always depends on the specific situation as well as on the specific audience. Complicated statistics, for example, must be avoided if you present to beginners in your area of expertise, but for experts they could be very interesting. Hence, it is up to you to judge if you want to follow all of these tips or if there are two or three points which maybe need to be adapted in your special situation.
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