7 bad habits that ruin good presentations

Avoid these common mistakes to make a lasting impression on your audience.

presentation mistakes

A good presentation can define a person and organization. Good presentations are what allow others to view you as a leader in your industry and an expert in your field.

However, good presentations are ruined by a handful of bad habits. Put the work in to eliminate the following seven bad habits, and you will almost assuredly give the kind of presentations that engage, educate and inspire your listeners.

Bad habit #1: Not rehearsing

Steve Jobs is considered one of the best presenters of all time. He made it look so effortless. Those who knew him confirm that he would spend countless hours choosing just the right words and rehearsing his presentations over and over again.

Never underestimate the power of rehearsal. When you know your presentation inside and out, you feel confident and less nervous the day of the event.

It’s a good idea to speak it out loud by yourself a few times, and then ask friends, family and colleagues to listen and give feedback.

Also, consider videotaping yourself so you can see how you look and sound. Are your ideas flowing? Are you stiff and awkward, or do you sound natural? Are you leaving the listener with an actionable takeaway?

Be honest with yourself. Take honest feedback from others, and make any necessary adjustments you need to before the event.

Bad habit #2: Lack of pauses

Do you… know… what keeps… your audience… engaged? Pauses.

Your presentation should not be a race you have with yourself to see how quickly you can finish. One of the best ways to speak slowly and keep your audience hooked is to use purposeful, strategic pauses.

When you rehearse your presentation, look for places where it makes sense to take a pause. Practice this, because it may not feel natural at first. Watch some of your favorite TEDTalk presenters to get an idea of how they use pauses, then try and mimic what they do.

Bad habit #3: Reading from your slides

Want to know one of the best ways to get your audience to stop paying attention to you? Read your PowerPoint slides.

Your slides are there to support the content that you are presenting. They are not the star of the show. Your audience did not come to watch you read your presentation; they came to learn from an expert. So be that expert, and keep your eyes on your audience–not your slides.

Bad habit #4: Standing in the same place the entire time

The days of having presenters stand behind a podium are gone. Whether you’re presenting remotely or at an event, be sure to move around while you speak. Moving will not only help you seem more comfortable, confident and authoritative, it will also help you visually connect with the audience.

Bad habit #5: Dressing too casually

What industry are you in? Who will make up your audience? And what is your topic about? The answers to these questions will help you decide what kind of attire you should wear.

Going overly formal is most likely not the right move, but dressing too casually, as in jeans and flip-flops, is not ideal either.

Remember, your goal is to be seen as an industry leader, someone who is taken seriously. Unless you are a 19-year-old millionaire entrepreneur, you most likely will want to go with business casual attire.

Bad habit #6: Using ineffective visuals

Adding visual elements to your presentation can be a great way to inspire your audience and connect with them on an emotional level. That is, if you use compelling visuals instead of ineffectual ones.

What makes a visual ineffective? Well, sometimes a chart or a graph can help you share some important data. And sometimes a chart and a graph are just, well, dull. It’s better to have no visuals than ineffective ones, so be sure to choose wisely. Look for visuals that help you tell a story and captivate your audience.

Bad habit #7: Going over (or under) time

Be sure when you rehearse that you keep timing in mind. It won’t be appreciated by anyone if you go over your time, though going under could cause scheduling problems as well.  Be respectful of your audience’s time, and hit your allotted timing on the mark.

If you work toward avoiding these seven bad habits, you can ensure that every presentation you give is one that will educate, entertain and inspire your audience.

 Ashish Arora is the co-founder of SketchBubble.com. You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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