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Think back over the presentations you have sat through recently.
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’ as they take you through a set of slides.
If you have, I’d bet you can probably recall little else about that presentation.
These three expressions are all examples of the type of phrases that can ruin presentations and were consequently included in one of our presentation skills training blogs last year.
Since then, through our presentation skills training courses, we’ve been able to add to that list.
So here are nine more phrases we feel presenters should avoid.
‘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 may 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 death by PowerPoint 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 – and allow them to make as many notes as they like.
‘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.
The other issue here is that even if your audience is fully engaged they are not going to remember a lot 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 it on one key message you want people to take away.
‘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.
That audience is also likely to be left wondering what they would have got from the rest of the presentation if it had been given the time it deserved.
It is also worth remembering that 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.
That means that even if you are able to rush through what remains of your presentation, the attention is likely to lie elsewhere.
‘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 give them a painful reminder?
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.
‘I’d like to tell a story’
Stories and anecdotes are a great way to illustrate your messages and make them relatable.
But they do not 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.
So think about how you would bring in stories to a conversation with family and friends and adopt a similar approach.
‘As I’m sure you know’
Assuming knowledge is a quick way of losing audience interest in your presentation.
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.
‘This is a complex diagram’
We can probably all recall sitting through presentations where we have found ourselves looking at a diagram on a slide and wondering what it could possibly mean, before our 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 probably not likely to try to understand what it shows.
Simplicity, as with so much of presentations, is crucial.
‘Now, before I start’
As harsh as it sounds, 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.
That 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.
I’m a huge fan of opening a presentation with 1 word - especially a word like ‘belief’ that can evoke mixed emotions and grab attention. Much better than your name, or even worse your company’s name! #presenting #talk #conference #tips pic.twitter.com/RqJDpbd0eF— Jack Lowman (@Jacklowman) April 3, 2018
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 on the main 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.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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