What was the last presentation you saw that motivated, inspired, and uplifted you? There’s a reason TEDTalks are so popular. These people know how to give great presentations. Wouldn’t you like to learn their tricks?
Here are X mistakes to avoid in your next presentation so you can get on TEDTalks sooner rather than later.
1. Not practicing enough
Do you think you can practice too much? Seriously? No one ever heard of a speech bombing because they were too well-prepared. The time you spend preparing directly correlates to how smooth your presentation goes. This involves everything from the speech itself (e.g., practice makes perfect) to your audio/visual equipment. Prepare and practice everything in advance. Knowing how to work everything in your venue, including the equipment, means you won’t be winging it on the day of your presentation.
2. Using inappropriate content
If you don’t know what this includes, ask for help. And if you can’t think of one thing that would be inappropriate for your target audience, then you don’t understand them well enough. Some crowds will respond better to business or industry jargon than others. And some will feel you’re patronizing them if you use such basic information that a toddler could understand.
The words you select make a difference. Try to connect with your audience by understanding their wants, needs, and desires in advance. When you speak "like them," you’re better able to grab their attention and keep it.
3. Trying to hit too many points
Blah, blah, blah. When a speaker goes on ad nauseam, they’re trying to cover too much ground. Limit yourself to a few main talking points so you don’t lose your audience’s attention. Most adult audiences respond best to presentations between 15 to 20 minutes. For everything you include in your presentation, ask, "Do they really need or want to know this?"
Part of trying to hit too many points results in too many slides. Choose slides carefully. You don’t want text-heavy slides; your audience will spend their time reading the slides and not paying attention to what you’re saying.
The key to presenting the perfect number of slides with the most important information is first to stick to your time limit. If you can’t get everything in a 15-minute speech, you’re including too much. Trim back your points to only those essential; design your slides with plenty of pictures and white space with few words.
4. You don’t talk to your audience
You’re not making eye contact, or worse, you’re reading your slides. First, if you’re reading slides, you have too much text on them. Second, if you’re so wrapped up in your presentation you forget about your audience, their eyes will gloss over and they’ll tune out.
Finally, if you go over your presentation’s length, it’s almost guaranteed your audience won’t pay attention to the entire thing. Consider how your entire body can suggest your enthusiasm and desire to talk to your audience. Body language plays a big part; research body language and learn it.
Also, your volume, the pauses you strategically place, and how you pace your words and sentences all play a role in captivating your audience. Don’t bore them with monotone delivery and uninspired words. Make eye contact, use active speech, and involve your audience in the presentation as much as possible.
5. Not giving your audience a take-away or "next steps"
What’s the point of your presentation? Do you want your audience to remember something, try something new, change their position or opinion on an issue, etc.? The best presentations inspire action. What do you want them to do, feel, consider, try, or change?
Make sure you give them concrete next steps. What should they do next, where should they go, who should they talk to? In fact, it’s okay to repeat your key points multiple times. And explain how and why they should do something with your key points to inspire them to action afterwards.
6. Not proofing your slides beforehand
Some people assume that since presentations usually include so few words, they need not proofread it. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The glaring mistake on any of your slides will be immediately noticeable. Avoid alienating your audience by giving them a presentation that looks great and uses simple language. Carefully read each word, analyze each graph, and ruthlessly cut what’s not important.
It’s best to use an editing tool like ProWritingAid to help you comb through your presentation. You'll instantly find technical and stylistic changes that will make it stronger, consistent, and more concise. Then consider having a trusted colleague or your boss review your slides to make sure it’s tight and simple.
7. Not using stories to emphasize your key points
The biggest mistake people make is presenting tons of graphs, numbers, and dry text to prove their point. You’ll lose every one of your audience right from the start that way.
The most important suggestion is to use stories to drive home your key points. Harvard Business Review found scientific evidence that people remember stories more than they remember facts and figures. If you want a truly inspiring, motivational presentation, start with a story about someone who struggled and eventually triumphed in the area you will discuss. Capture their hearts and then you can capture their brains.
Remember, next time you’re asked to present, avoid these 7 mistakes. You’ll deliver your presentation with more confidence and feel a clearer sense of purpose than you ever have before. And maybe, just maybe… TEDTalks will call soon to schedule you.