The 7 most common mistakes in Presentations

We all have had our fair share of presentations. I can honestly say that over half of the presentations I have seen have been really boring. I made a list of presentation mistakes that I have encountered quite much lately. I hope that this will be helpful for some, and this way at least one of the boring presentations I was about to see is changed to an interesting presentation.

NOTE: These rules do not apply for lecturers. Lecturers can still give as boring lectures as they want.

1. Poor opening

We have all witnessed this scenario; “Hello, my name is Maria and I’m here to give you a presentation on our group project.” Well, hello there Maria, but your opening stinks, I’m already bored. Be yourself, be genuine. Don’t panic. Just go in front of the audience, introduce yourself and go to the point. You do not need to tell people that you are giving presentation. They damn well know that you are giving presentation – after all, you are on stage!

Some say that it’s a good idea to open with a joke. I agree to some level. Opening with a joke is a risky business. Because if the joke backfires, there is no turning back. If you are not a comedian, don’t start today.

I know, it’s quite hard to open the presentation smoothly, but after some practice you will find your own way which suits for you. I personally like to introduce myself and start telling a story. It works for me, you need to find your own way.

2. Apologizing

You are the man in control! Don’t apologize. For example people tend to apologize for their poor slides or some material that is missing at the moment. If some one from the audience asks you something that you were not prepared, then maybe you can say “Sorry, I don’t have that information, but I will get back at you as soon as I have it.”. If you have prepared your presentation well, you are the expert on that area and you know all the answers for the questions from the audience. Be the rock star on stage!

And I don’t mean that you should forget good manners. Of course, if you are late it’s good manners to say that you are sorry for being late, but don’t start explaining why you are late. Just admit that you screwed up and give your presentation as well as you can.

3. Using bullet points

Bullet points, those little thingies on screen that makes my eyes bleed. Somehow people tend to think that bullet points look great. No, they don’t. You should consider using pictures or photos that illustrate more what you are saying. There are tons of options to use instead of bullet points, just use your imagination. Bottom line is that don’t use them, unless you really have no another choice.

4. Speaking the slides

This is way too common mistake. You go in front of the audience to speak what people can read from the screen? I mean really. If that is all you have to say, why didn’t you just send an email with that information. Your audience can read. Prepare your slides better. Tell a story, so that your audience remains interested in your presentation. That will make the presentation situation pleasent for you and for your audience.

5. Timing (too long or too short presentation)

Mostly presentations have a time limit. And time limit doesn’t mean that the presentation has to last as long. Actually it’s good to finish a bit early, maybe then you’ll have some time to answer some questions. Sometimes people tend to think that their audience knows more about the subject that they really do. That’s why it’s important to know your audience, and keep the presentation within the understanding of your audience. KISS is something to keep in mind – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

If your presentation is short and you are only using 5 of your 15 minutes, then you have not prepared well enough. Still do not fill your presentation with jibberish to make it seem better, it only wastes everyones time.

The solution for timing problems is simple. Practice, practice and practice! Practice until you nail it.

6. Too many slides

Not that long ago I watched a presentation that had something like 30 (or more) slides. I mean come on! Of course the amount of slides is correlated with your presentation. The longer your presentation is, the more slides you can use. For a standard 15 minute presentation I would suggest you to use only 5 slides. Maybe couple more if it is necessary! Again, KISS!

7. Poorly designed slides

Designing slides is not rocket science. Still it amazes me how poorly some slides are made. Do not try to make anything fancy. Especially using colors should be modest. Also some people tend to use “cool” fonts. The problem there is that they are very hard to read from a distance. You should use clear standard fonts like Arial for example. Also Times New Roman is very poor choice for a presentation font, it’s too detailed.

Animating slides. PowerPoint has some cool transition animations between slides. Ok, in good hands they look awesome, but in most cases they are not in good hands. People use different kinds of transitions between slides that makes the presentation look amateurish. It’s still ok not to use transitions, and my suggestion is that if you don’t know how to use them correctly, don’t use them. There is also more ways to screw up your slide design, but at least try to avoid these.

Presentation checklist

  1. Practice
  2. Don’t use bullet points
  3. KISS
  4. Design slides well
  5. Tell a story
  6. Illustrate with pictures and photos
  7. You are the man!

Now you are ready to present the way that your presentation won’t suck. These tips used together with Presefy, you’ll be the master of presentations.

Happy Presenting,

Team Presefy

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