10 Ways to screw up your presentation

Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

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I’ve been a global conference speaker and facilitator for over 15 years, and in the last year, the number of requests I get to present “Effective Speaking” classes has more than tripled. This tells me three things .. 1. A lot of people are still giving presentations, 2. Many more people are still having to listen to these presentations, and 3. In general, most presentations suck. It takes practice to give great presentations. Giving bad ones is far easier.

There has been lots of debate as to why so many presentations don’t live up to expectations, and very often PowerPoint gets the blame. We’ve all heard of death by PowerPoint and the fact is that bullets do kill – even in presentations. But PowerPoint or Keynote if you’re on Mac, are merely tools. Tools that can be very helpful if they’re used correctly.

So, here are 10 ways to screw up your preso and look like an amateur and leave a really bad impression.

1. Misspell words. Even if you’re the worst speller in the world, Spellchecker is generally overrated so don’t bother with it. It just wastes your time anyway. Besides, this is a speech, not an English class. No-one really cares about spelling right!?
If you don’t care enough to proof your presentation, your audience will care less about you and your message. It’s the easiest way to look unprofessional.

2. Use a really small font size. If you really want to drive people crazy, say something like this: “I know you can’t read this, but if you could, here is what it would say…” Come on, it’s not your fault that every audience member is not blessed with Eagle-like eyesight, never mind 20/20 vision.

3. Insert improperly sized photos that are stretched to fit the slide. Images used in PowerPoint slides should be at least 900 pixels wide by 720 high. Designers start with larger images and shrink them to fit the slide. If you really want to look bad, however, find much smaller thumbnail images, say 200 x 300 pixels, and simply stretch them to fit the slide. They will look blurry, cheap, and bush-league.

4. Look completely and totally disinterested. I attended a conference in which the keynote speaker hadn’t even bothered to create a presentation and had a few handwritten notes in front of him. That’s fine, if you can pull it off. This speaker could not. He shuffled through his notes, lost his place several times, and twice asked the organizer, “How much time do I have?”

5. Look disheveled. I normally present in designer jeans and a tailored shirt – I can pull this off because of my presentation style and my brand. But, depending on the audience, the geographical location and the topic, you may not able to pull it off. If you really want to leave a bad impression, wear faded blue jeans, worn, dirty shoes, and a stained shirt.

6. Read every word of each slide. Better yet, turn your back to the audience and read your slides word for word. And trust me, you will do this if you design your slide deck wrong, and don’t know your topic or your message.

7. Don’t bother with a backup plan. If you need a live Internet connection to demo a site, don’t bother making a screen shot of the site in case the connection doesn’t work. That way, you’ll be at a complete loss for words when the connection fails.
Also, make sure your presentation is backed up to at least two other locations – a flash drive, the cloud, Slideshare (wherever) so yu can get hold of it if your laptop dies, gets stolen or your luggage flies to Singapore while you fly to London.

8. Don’t practice. At all. Practicing a presentation out loud takes work and will make you look far too polished. Just wing it. Besides, you want to surprise your audience and yourself. (And trust me, you will.)

9. Call attention to your mistakes. If you want to show a complete lack of preparation, say something like “Oops, I have no idea how that slide got in there.” But don’t limit highlighting your mistakes, why not point out all your short comings. While you’re at it why not also apologise for running over time, having the flu, stuttering, not knowing which slide comes next…. You get the picture.

10. Use cartoon clip art. There really is no reason why you should spend a couple of bucks on buying stunning and symbolic high resolution stock photos from a stock photography service such as iStockphoto when there are plenty of cheap-looking and free cartoons that will make your presentation look like a kids’ book.

I hope you find some of these tips memorable enough to avoid them at all costs. But make no mistake, these presentation “techniques” are alive, well, and thriving. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, some-one else adds something to the list. Let us know what other oopsies you’ve encountered.

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