Avoiding Common Presentation Mistakes

Instructor: LeRon Haire
In this lesson, some of the most common problems with making presentations will be discussed. The lesson will also address how to remedy these mistakes as well.

The Problems With Making Presentations

It's Monday morning, and you've just spent your entire weekend alone and in front of the mirror rehearsing what you were going to say in about five minutes when your name is called to give a presentation in front of several people. Not only will your boss be there but so will the regional boss, who, like the Loch Ness monster, has never been physically seen. As you sit nervously listening, you begin to sweat and ultimately forget exactly what you rehearsed over the weekend. Just as you reach for a stick of gum, you hear your name called to step to the front of the room to give your presentation.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Whether for a job or an important grade in a course, at some point, we must all face the fear that is giving presentations in front of people. How can we avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes that commonly occur when making presentations? Let's look at how this can be done.

Make Direct Eye Contact With the Audience

Raise your hand (yes, in front of the computer screen) if you've ever given a presentation in front of an audience but refused to make eye contact with the audience. (No worries because my hand is raised also.) This is considered one of the common mistakes when making presentations. When making a presentation, the objective is to inform or educate the audience on the topic that you are speaking, and eye contact helps to make a positive connection from presenter to audience. The lack of eye contact with the audience may result in the following problems:

  • The audience may feel as if they are being ignored
  • The presenter may appear weak in regards to the topic

Although common, this problem can be avoided. For a smaller audience, try to look each member in the eyes at least twice during a presentation. For larger audiences, a neat trick is to attempt to look at each audience member's forehead. If the person is at a distance, they will not be able to see your eyes so glancing at their foreheads will do the trick and give the appearance that you are looking into their eyes. Also, for the larger audience, aim to look at each area where people are sitting if you are unable to look at each person.

Know the Material

Would you hire a mechanic to cater your wedding? Why not? Exactly...because the mechanic's expertise is in repairing vehicles and not preparing a cake with buttercream frosting! When making a presentation, one of the common mistakes is that the presenter is not a subject expert and does not have a full understanding of the material. A lack of knowledge on the presented material may present problems such as:

  • The audience may view the presenter as having less credibility
  • The audience may feel as if the presenter has lost interest in the presentation

This can be resolved by taking the time to study the presented material if the presenter is unfamiliar with it. The presenter must become the subject expert and, at a minimum, know the foundation and general terms associated with the topic.

Be Sure the Presentation Material is Readable By All

As most of you know, most presentations are performed with the help of a computer and a program such as PowerPoint. PowerPoint allows the presenter to display text and pictures to help support their presentation. For that reason, it's important that the material on PowerPoint is legible and able to be read by all members of the audience. Having unreadable materials is a common problem that can result in the following:

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