Common Presentation Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, presentations are a necessary evil in the business world. And regardless of whether you’re a public speaking pro or there’s nothing you hate more, we’ve all been gripped by the fear of presenting at one point or another.

Quite frankly, that fear is often justified; there are any number of pitfalls that can derail even the most carefully planned presentation. There’s the danger of technical difficulties, a disinterested audience contentious Q&A—the list goes on and on.

Luckily, with a little forethought, it’s easy to sidestep even the most dangerous of presentation pitfalls, turning your recurring presentation nightmares into sweet dreams of success.

Presentation Pitfall 1: Technical Terrors

The goal of any presentation is to convey information to your audience in an engaging, memorable way. However, if your presentation starts off with apologies over technical difficulties (“Uh, bear with me guys…”), suddenly you’re fighting an uphill battle. You’ve already lost the audience, and now you have to spend the rest of your preso making up ground.

Sidestep this pitfall by testing your technology.

“Testing your technology” sounds like such a simple concept, but everyone gets so busy that often you aren’t even aware your next meeting is coming up until that meeting reminder pops up. However, you should always try to get into the conference room or virtual meeting room 5-10 minutes early to test the projector, screen share, etc., so that you’re not taking it on faith that your technology will work when you need it most.

Bonus tip: For virtual presentations, technology problems are one of the leading causes of delayed meeting starts. Choose an online meeting tool that doesn’t require guest downloads to streamline attendee entry.

Presentation Pitfall 2: Q&A Quandaries

For many people, the thought of intense Q&A is the most intimidating part of any presentation—that feeling of dread in your stomach that someone’s going to catch you off-guard with a question. It reminds me of those days in class when you knew you weren’t prepared and you were hoping against hope that the teacher wouldn’t call on you.

Sidestep this pitfall by both preparing for the worst and admitting if you don’t have the answer.

If you’re worried that a presentation might stir up a particularly contentious Q&A, take the time before your meeting to practice the presentation with a coworker or group of coworkers, then let them ask any questions they may have. The problem with any well-prepared project is that it’s easy to get too close to it and not be able to see the forest for the trees. By getting additional perspectives, you can jot down questions or ideas you might not have thought of on your own and thus be better prepared for your presentation.

And secondly, don’t be to say “I don’t know!” Trying to dance around a question only comes off as evasive. If you truly don’t know, admit it and make a point to find out and follow-up with whoever asked.

Presentation Pitfall 3: Audience Apathy

Lastly, what do you do if you encounter the opposite of an overly engaged and curious audience? What if the people you’re presenting to just don’t care?

Few things lower your professional morale like a well-prepared, informative presentation that falls on deaf, disinterested ears. As the presenter and meeting host, it’s up to you to ensure that your information is delivered in an engaging way that simultaneously conveys the point of your presentation while being memorable.

Sidestep this pitfall by mixing it up.

Have you ever heard the term “Death by PowerPoint?” It’s easy to get stuck in a presentation rut and fall back on the same tired slides and meeting formats. If you really want to kick your presentations into high gear and ensure an attentive audience, don’t be afraid to mix it up! Start your presentation with a hilarious gif or video. Ditch your traditional slide deck for something with a little more pizzazz, like HaikuDeck or Prezi. Or even take it to the extreme and shake up the entire meeting by having everyone stand up! Whatever you do, don’t settle for presentation mediocrity; explore your creativity to bring your information to life.



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