3 Bad presentation habits to watch out for


man and woman in audience

There are 3 bad presentation habits to watch out for

Bad Habit 1 – Reading slides

Interestingly when you ask people what they regard as a bad habits when it comes to presenting many will list features such as:

– Hands in pockets

– Arms folded

– Saying ‘err’ and ‘umm’ too much

– Speaking to fast

– Holding, tapping, clicking or waving a pen

At the very top of our 3 bad presentation habits to watch out for, is reading slides out to the audience.

New habits

As you design each slide, ask yourself this important question:

‘Are they likely to read this whilst listening to me speaking?’

If you believe the answer is YES then what you are crafting is a handout, not a visual aid.

It probably also means you shouldn’t be presenting in the first place.

Consider sending your audience the documents in an email with a request to call you if they have any questions.

– Use compelling images and few words

Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time writing out slides, invest your time in making sure that what you have to say is of complete relevance and significant value to your audience. Make a commitment to yourself and your audience to only use slides to amplify your message and to enhance your audience’s understanding of the point you are making.

– Hit the B Key

Sometimes it’s appropriate and very powerful to draw your audience’s attention completely away from the slide. Doing so allows them to focus exclusively on you and your words.

When that moment comes, simply press the B key on your key board.

This will blank the screen and when you are ready for the slide to reappear hit the B key once again to bring it back up.

– Practice, and then practice some more

Rather than using your slides as a script to remember your presentation get into the habit of knowing your message and content inside and out.

Firstly, practice as often as you can out loud to yourself at every opportunity.

Then practice in front of a few friends or family members asking them for feedback.

As you start to become comfortable with your presentation practice it in front of colleagues.

If it’s at all possible, practice in the very room you will be giving your talk.

Bad Habit 2 – Speaking too fast

It’s very common for presenters to speak too fast during their presentation. It’s the second of our top 3 bad presentation habits.

In the process  of speaking too fast you will lose, confuse or even alienate your audience.

Speed is normally associated with nerves, passion or simply the fact that the speaker has prepared far too much to say with not enough time to say it in.

New habits

– Record yourself presenting

Play it back to yourself and others and see for yourself.

Self – awareness is the key to mindful presenting. The only way you can possibly know if you speak too fast is to listen to yourself and ask others.

– Pause between sentences

Take a moment to pause after key points and especially after asking rhetorical questions.

There really isn’t anything more powerful than a moments silence to help your audience absorb what you just said.

It allows them to keep up with you and gives you space to think.

– Breathe between sentences

Breathing properly before and during your presentation helps you to stay calm, focused and in control.

It provides the platform to mindfulness. Mindful breathing offers the scope to improvise, use your vocal chords more creatively and feel and act more confidently.

– Practice reading

Take a few chapters from your favourite book and practice reading them out loud at different speeds.

Accentuate your delivery by slowing right down and speeding up. Feel the impact for yourself.

The best way to slow down is to practice slowing down.

– Get your audience involved

Ask them questions, get them to use their imagination or even do a simple exercise.

There’s nothing worse than feeling as though you are being lectured at. The best way to avoid imposing that feeling if you know you speak too fast is to create a conversation rather than a presentation.

You can only achieve that by involving your audience.

– Build in variety

Vary your content by using short powerful videos, props or a relevant hand out.

Whilst content is king when it comes to presenting, contrast and creativity must be very close cousins.

Far too few business presentations contain enough variety to stimulate, engage and retain the attention of an audience.

Bad Habit 3 Movement (too much and not enough)

Like most things in life balance is the key to happiness and success.

It’s exactly the same when it comes to how much and how you move when presenting to an audience.

The speaker’s prime objective is to capture and hold the attention of their audience throughout their entire presentation.

It’s really hard to do that when you are fidgeting, swaying from side to side or playing with loose change in your pocket.

Meaningless movement will distraction your audience ensure that they aren’t focused on you or your message.

Standing to attention like a Queen’s guard, doesn’t help you in your quest to engage your audience either.

New habits

– Video yourself

Record yourself presenting and then play it back to yourself and others

Self-awareness is the key to mindful presenting. The only way you can possibly know if you move too much or not enough is to watch yourself and get feedback.

You can only stop what you are actually aware of.

– Take the handcuffs off

If you put your hands in your pockets or behind your back you’ve trapped them and it’s likely they will stay there.

Start speaking with them out at the front just above your waist and watch what happens.

Your hands know exactly what to do without any coaching. They just need to be set free.

Stand firm

Discard any ‘comfort blankets’ like pens, pencils or pointers.

Start by keeping your shoulders back and down with your feet planted firmly on the floor, shoulder width apart.

Keep your head up slightly and your torso comfortably tight.

Remember to breathe deeply.

Talk to your face

Have you ever heard a presenter say how passionate they are about what they are about to share with you yet they’ve forgotten to tell their face?

Don’t make that mistake; tell your body and face exactly how you want your audience to feel and then show it.

– Make it meaningful

Move with a purpose.

For example, if you are sharing three key messages in your presentation, make a point of standing in three different locations on the platform for each different message.

If you are talking about the future step forward into the future. When you’re relating to the past, take a step backwards.

If you are trying to explain how large something was, use your hands to demonstrate its size. Do the same of course, if it’s something small.

Movement is energy and visual stimulation

Your audience want to feel your energy.

Don’t take the old advice of standing still like a statue.

Get moving but do so with purpose and meaning.

I’ve only covered 3 bad presentation habits in this article

There are of course, many more.

Regardless of the habit the solution is mindfulness and self- awareness.

Once you identify the habits that don’t serve you well, give some careful thought to what you could do to replace them with.

What would be far more helpful to your audience?

If you do still need a good presentation skills coach:

– 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

Image Courtesy of: Flickr.com

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