Presentation mistakes are very easy to make, especially when presenting to the boss.
I still remember the very first time I was invited to make a presentation to my senior management team. I couldn’t sleep for days. My mind was filled with dread and every nerve, cell and fibre of my entire being felt like they were preparing for a major meltdown. I was only in my early 20’s but I believe that even the cuff on a blood pressure monitor would have been trembling
It was a long time ago but I remember it well just as I do those few days before I prepared for my first kiss.
Fast forward decades and I find myself not only presenting to senior executives all over the world but teaching professionals to enjoy their ‘first kiss’, if you understand my meaning. As the old saying goes ‘I only wish I knew then what I know now’.
Sometimes people learn just that little bit quicker and easier by focusing on some of the mistakes they need to avoid. Here are my top 7 presentation mistakes.
More is too much
You’ve been invited to speak because you’re the expert so it’s incumbent on you to tell them everything you know. At least that’s what many presenters think.
That’s the first big presentation mistake
Just tell them exactly what they need to know that will make a difference to the business. Have all the information, data and supporting evidence ready and available in your back pocket but don’t dump it all on in one go. You will cause cognitive overload if you do.
Your job is to be clear, concise and compelling. The way to do that is to stay focused on everything your audience need to know. It’s a presentation mistake to only tell them what you’d like them to know because you’ve worked so hard on it.
Don’t make them read
Just like you, executives are very busy people. Most of them spend far too much time reading reports, emails, business cases, market updates, industry news, stake holder concerns, etc.
If you turn up with a slide deck the size of ‘War and Peace’ you’d like to talk, through their hearts will sink.
That’s the second big presentation mistake
Have a conversation instead. That’s what they long for; interesting, stimulating human connections which you can’t have when burying them in the written word.
If you do show slides, make sure they are highly relevant, simple and powerful.
You’re not a comedian
One of the most common and painful presentation mistakes professionals make when presenting to senior management is that they ramble. They drone through point after point, slide after slide, leaving it down to their audience to work out for themselves when they’ve got to the point.
Don’t make your audience work too hard by saving the punchline for the end.
Waiting until it’s too late is the third big presentation mistake
Give it to them up front.
Energy and enthusiasm are infectious
Business presentations which lack energy and enthusiasm are tedious. Content rich and beautifully crafted slides on their own don’t work.
For you to be taken seriously you have to command your audience’s attention and get them to feel your passion. It’s hard to connect with any audience without energy and enthusiasm.
Avoid the fourth big presentation mistake by giving your audience your passion
Playing it safe is boring
If you really want to capture your audience’s attention, the way to do so isn’t by playing it safe. You may as well just send them an email or a document with your recommendations. Take some risks to stand out and make your message stick:
– Tell stories
– Use Props
– Ask thought provoking questions
– Surprise them
– Use provocative slides
– Challenge the status quo
The fifth presentation mistake is doing exactly what everyone else does
Human beings need to connect
Many presenters focus largely on using logic and data to make an intellectual connection with their audience.
That’s all well and good but it’s not enough.
Making sure your audience understand what you are saying is of course vital. It is however, pointless them nodding in agreement if they don’t then go away and do something with the ideas and information you’ve presented.
People take action when they feel something. Decide exactly what it is you want them to feel and work to make that connection.
Not making you audience feel something is one of the worst presentation mistakes
– Evoke their curiosity
– Challenge their thinking
– Use metaphors and analogies
– Use descriptive language
– Animate your message through movement
– Use your voice effectively
Some truths about you
All too often when faced with the prospect of presenting to senior management, some presenters somehow manage to turn on the ‘corporate spokesperson’ switch. Unfortunately, that often only serves to keep them detached from their audience.
A little personal disclosure about who you really are goes a long way.
Have the courage to tell your audience how you feel. Don’t be afraid to feel a little vulnerable.
It’s a huge presentation mistake to not give your audience a glimpse of the real you
Knowing how to present to senior executives is undoubtedly one of those things in your career which is likely to have the biggest impact. You can avoid the same presentation mistakes many do by focusing on these tips.
Whilst this article has focused specifically on presenting to senior management, it’s wisdom extends to everyone, not just the boss.
If you would like to learn more about how to avoid the common presentation mistakes:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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