9 things you should never say in your presentation

Some phrases can lose an audiences’ interest or telegraph that your speech is unimportant or carelessly constructed. Avoid insulting your audience by leaving out these common quips.

Think back over the presentations you have sat through.

You’ve probably heard someone say, “Excuse me if I seem nervous,” “I haven’t had a lot of time to prepare” or, perhaps, “You probably can’t read this,” in launching a parade of blurry slides.

If you have, you can probably recall little else about that presentation.

These are common expressions that can ruin presentations. Here are nine more phrases presenters should avoid:

1. “You won’t need to make notes.”

This line is usually followed by “the presentation will be online later.”

There’s nothing wrong with posting your presentation online, but if all the information the audience needs is on those slides, they might as well save some of their precious time and just wait for it to go live.

Good presentations do not feature text heavy slides—and no-one ever went to a presentation hoping to hear someone read aloud. Restrict slides to a supporting role and engage your audience with your thoughts and ideas. Allow them to make as many notes as they like.

2. “I’ve got a lot of information to cover.”

This is a presentation killer and instantly evokes thoughts of information overload and boredom among the audience—not a great start.

Even if your audience is fully engaged they are not going to remember most of what you say. If your presentation does contain a lot of information, you need to go back to the editing stage, sharpen your pencil and focus on one key message you want people to take away.

3. “Time’s running out, so I’ll get through the rest quickly.”

This smacks of a lack of preparation and poor time management, and it is not going to leave a good impression with your audience. They also likely to be left wondering what they would have gotten from the rest of the presentation if it had been given the time it deserved.

Audiences typically become restless, distracted and uneasy when there is any suggestion that proceedings are overrunning—particularly if you are speaking before a break or at the end of the day. Even if could rush through what remains of your presentation, their attention is likely elsewhere.

4. “I think I’ve bored you enough.”

Hopefully your presentation has been interesting and insightful, in which case why leave the audience with a negative connotation?

If it really has been boring, is it really necessary to point it out?

There are much more effective and stylish ways to bring your presentation to a close, such as producing a brief summary of the key points, referring back to a question you may have asked at the start, encouraging action or drawing in an inspirational quote.

5. “I’d like to tell a story.”

Stories and anecdotes are a great way to illustrate your messages and make them relatable, but they don’t need to be announced with a ‘let me tell you a story’ type phrase.

You want your presentation to sound natural, not rehearsed and robotic.

Think about how you would bring in stories to a conversation with family and friends and adopt a similar approach.

6. “As I’m sure you know…”

Assuming knowledge is a quick way to lose your audience. If people can’t follow what you are saying their attention will rapidly move elsewhere.

You are the expert in this situation and it is important not to assume the people you are speaking to know as much about the subject as you do. The best approach is to try to educate those who may not naturally know what you are talking about and reinforce the knowledge of those who probably do.

7.This is a complex diagram.”

You can probably recall sitting through presentations where you have found ourselves looking at a diagram on a slide and wondering what it could possibly mean before your attention swiftly moved to something else.

If a diagram in your slides is not easy to understand your audience will quickly lose interest. If you introduce it as a “complex diagram” they are unlikely to try to understand what it shows.

Simplicity, as with so much of presentations, is crucial.

8. “Now, before I start…”

You have only got a very small opportunity in a presentation to make the right impression with your audience. Like it or not, they will form an instant impression of you.

This means you need to start strongly by getting to your key messages and supporting stories and anecdotes straight away. Don’t waste this crucial time with a bad beginning, such as checking technical equipment.

9. “Any questions?”

There’s nothing wrong with the question itself. The problem is that it is often asked right at the end of a presentation when you should be looking to finish strongly.

Chances are that by asking this question at the end, you will be met with an awkward silence or you could face questions which are not addressing the message you want the audience to take away from the presentation.

A better approach is to ask for questions at regular intervals throughout the presentation and focus on providing a strong ending.

What phrases would you add to this list?

Adam Fisher is the content editor for Media First, a media and communications training firm with over 30 years of experience. A version of this article originally appeared on the Media First blog.

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