What people hate about others’ presentations… and how to avoid doing it

9th July 2013

Most presentations aren’t very good. They’re too long, irrelevant and dull.

But most of the things that annoy audiences are pretty easy to fix.

For instance, audiences tend not to like:

  • Word-y slides
  • Small font they can’t read
  • Lack of interactivity
  • Lack of passion

And the fixes?

  • Delete most of the words from your slides
  • Use a bigger font
  • Ask questions, to stimulate interactivity
  • Find the thing you’re passionate about (this will be one/more of: the content itself; or the benefits you or your audience will get from hearing it)

As I say, these things are pretty easy to fix.

But there’s one that isn’t: audiences despise it when presenters flick through loads of slides they don’t want the audience to see. This is usually accompanied by ‘we haven’t time to look at these now’, or ‘these slides aren’t relevant to us today’.

And how to fix this? Well, it depends on the cause:

If these slides should never have been in this presentation to this audience…

Well, the presenter should never have included them. He usually put them in because he had an existing presentation and used it for a new audience, even though some of the content wasn’t relevant. But this is selfish and rude. In effect, the presenter is saying ‘I didn’t prioritise the time to tailor these slides. So you lot will have to waste your time as I flick through them now’.

But what if these slides should have been in?

This time, excess slides might not be anybody’s fault. For instance, maybe your audience was super-engaged and asked lots of questions. Even so, you still don’t want to flick through slides – it sends out the wrong signals to them.

Fortunately, the solution is easy: let’s say you’re on Slide 5 and need to jump to Slide 9 so you can finish on time. All you do is type ‘9’ then press ‘return’. This jumps you straight to Slide 9. And then if you then wanted to jump to Slide 13? Press ‘1’, ‘3’ and ‘return’. It’s that easy.

Your audience won’t know you’ve missed any slides out. It’s only you who knows they actually saw 1-5, then 9 and 13.

One final clue here: print out your slides beforehand – maybe 9 to a page – and have them in front of you. That way, you know your slide numbers if you need to jump about.

This one is now easy to fix, just like the four examples above.

So, which easy fix(es) will you use, to help improve how people perceive your presentations and, therefore, how they perceive you?

Action point

You know the next presentation you’ve got coming up? Identify 1-2 of the Tips in this email which you could easily adopt, to make it better for your audience and you.

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