5 reasons your last presentation bombed

Were you boring, not prepared or bested by technology? Check out this handful of potential pitfalls.

At the Presentation Advisors blog, I’ve tried to equip you with as many tips and tools as possible to make your presentation go smoothly. Of course, we live in the real world (at least most of us), and presentations are rarely, if ever, perfect.

Here are five reasons your last presentation went over like a lead balloon, and some helpful tips to avoid them next time.

1. You didn’t respect your audience’s time.

Just having your audience show up to hear you speak is a gift, so treat them as you’d want to be treated. If you’ve promised to only take one hour, then only take one hour. Better still, take 40 minutes, and have an open and honest discussion for 20 minutes.

Make sure you’ve practiced your delivery enough times that you know exactly how long it takes to get through your entire presentation (don’t rush through or skip any slides). You may have something to say that will alter their lives forever, but if you keep them hostage you’re sure to lose them.

2. Your audience found no value in your content.

In order for your audience to care about your presentation, your content has to resonate on an emotional level. To do this, your presentation has to be tailored to their needs. What are their pain points? How does your product/service make their lives easier? How will a donation to your cause enrich their lives?

It doesn’t matter whether you know that your presentation can change their lives; they have to understand that. Usually, it’s not the substance of your presentation, but how you frame it.

3. Your presentation had no element of storytelling.

When we are presented to—often with bullet points and data dumps—we as audience members immediately fold our arms and tune out. Nobody wants to be presented to, marketed to, or sold to. However, when we are told a story, our arms unfold and we lean forward, intently listening. If your audience can see themselves in your presentation, then the need to persuade them disappears. Taking a narrative approach to presenting —with a hero, mentor, challenge, conflict, and resolution—breaks down the barriers and lets your audience in.

4. You weren’t prepared.

Every part of building and delivering an effective presentation takes time. How much time did you spend organizing your content (without PowerPoint)? How much time did you spend designing it? How much time did you spend practicing your delivery?

I’ve walked out of presentations delivered by so-called “experts” in their field because they obviously didn’t care enough about me to prepare. Sometimes they had to read their content, and other times their design showed little effort. People do notice if you cut corners. Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail.

5. You let the technology get the best of you.

Technology can be a presentation killer, plain and simple. If you don’t prepare for as many situations as possible, the technology will get the best of you. My colleague John Zimmer has put together a presenter’s checklist that you can use before you leave for your presentation to ensure you’ll have everything you need.

Also, don’t depend on your venue’s technology. Invest in your own equipment, like a laptop (with the right connectors!), wireless remote, speakers, and even your own projector.

As an audience member, what caused a presentation that you attended to fall flat?

Jon Thomas is the director of communications at Story Worldwide and founder of PresentationAdvisors.com, where a version of this story originally ran.

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