Voice & Speech Newsletter

5 Presentation Crimes

I’ve coached hundreds of presentations in my career, and sat through maybe thousands, and too many were just pathetic. Given the amount of attention that’s given to this topic and the volume of resources available for training, it really is a crime to give bad presentations.

And don’t assume bad presentations are victimless crimes. Listeners suffer. Time is wasted and opportunities are squandered. Here are five presentation felonies that will land you on the Most Un-Wanted speaker list before anyone can read you your Miranda Rights.

The crime of not practicing- Thorough preparation is key to effective presentations. Rambling and going overtime are clear signs you haven’t practiced. Understanding the material in your head doesn’t mean you can communicate it clearly. So stand up and say it out loud, and soon you’ll see how prepared you really are.

The crime of a dull opening- Let’s face it. Your listeners are easily distracted. Within thirty seconds, they’ll decide whether you deserve attention or not. You can’t stand up and open with, “Today I’m going to talk about blah, blah, blah.” You have to engage them immediately with a relevant story, a surprising fact or a thought provoking question. It takes work to create a strong opening, but it might be the most important part of your presentation.

Recommended Video

The 5 Paths to Communication Failure

Conor Neill, of IESE Business School, concisely identifies five ways to fail as a communicator. Numbers 1-3 might not apply to every presentation, but it would be challenging to consider how you might make them apply. The last two are definitely relevant for every speaker, in any situation.

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Stand with aligned, open posture. At least look like you’re strong and confident. Face forward, stand on both feet, and imagine the front of your body opening outward, like doors. Your physical stance should say, “I’m here, I trust you, and I’m fully available for this conversation.” It’s the least you can do.


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