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Why Your Presentations Aren't Very Good

        posted by , December 16, 2012

Life is too short for bad presentations.

Boudeuse ou Le Silence

Anyone who tells you that all their presentations are smashing successes either hasn't given many presentations or is lying.

We've all been there — a presentation or speech that doesn't go well. It can be embarrassing, disappointing and just plain bad for your career.

The good news is that it's easy to improve your presentation skills by avoiding a few common mistakes:

1. Focusing on your slides

The value of your presentation isn't your slides.

The visual elements of your presentation are important. However, the true value of a presentation is you.

After all, you can send your powerpoint by email.

Develop a few simple slides that drive home your theme and then forget about them. Your slides are there for your audience, not for you to focus on.

2. Being boring

The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.
~ Voltaire
It's easy to overestimate what your audience will find interesting.

The first rule of not boring your audience is to get to the point.

The second rule of not boring your audience is to focus your message on satisfying an urgent need for your audience. People are interested in things that impact them.

3. Starting out on the wrong foot

The first 2 minutes of your presentation is critical.

When you begin with something less than interesting (such as a long self introduction or the history of your company) your presentation is doomed.

Do something that establishes your ability to wow right from the start.

4. Confusing your audience

I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
~ Jack Kerouac
A clear, consistent message driven home with repetition is best.

If you state seemingly contradictory facts and recommendations your audience will get completely lost.

It's better to leave your audience with a simple, consistent message than to give them a complex message that leaves them wondering — what was the point?

5. You're not believable

The role of an actor is to make every character believable.
~ Orlando Bloom
It's difficult to balance the need to give your presentation a wow-factor with the need to make it believable.

Think of your favorite character from a great movie — he or she was probably both amazing and believable. That's what you want for your presentation.

If your audience doesn't believe your message, it's just as bad (or worse) as putting them to sleep. You'll face challenging questions.

6. You're not being creative

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
~ Jack London
Traditional public speaking advice makes for boring, ineffective presentations. For example, ending your presentation with questions is the worst thing you can do. It's better to end with something memorable and high energy that leaves a lasting impression.

There's no set format for a good presentation. What sets great public speakers apart is creativity.

Begin with a question instead of ending with one. Get out of the mold of reading powerpoint slides. Do something different.

7. Being too serious

There's no such thing as soy milk. It's soy juice.

~ Lewis Black
Lighthearted presentations are almost always best. Entertaining your audience is just as important as informing them. It's impossible to inform an audience that has drifted off.

8. Letting your fear guide you

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.
~ Bill Cosby
Virtually everyone is a little nervous when they give a presentation. In fact, fear of public speaking consistently ranks amongst the most common fears.

The key to overcoming your fear is not to focus on it.

Enthusiasm is the secret. When you're excited about the opportunity to share information — your fear becomes a secondary concern.

This is the first installment in the 9-part series How to Give Magnetic Presentations.

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Even minor improvements in your leadership skills can pay huge dividends for your career and personal life.

Instead of trying to overcome your fear, use it to your advantage.

Team building is important. Team building is fun. Team building can go drastically wrong.

The simple things that great public speakers do well.

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