They advise us to be memorable when giving a presentation. Only being memorable for every minute of your speech is intimidating. Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.
Even if they grew an intention to ask a question, in the end, the audience became hesitant and gave up – given the guest stories, how can I match that?
True Story– Earlier this year I attended a very inspirational presentation at a digital marketing conference: the speaker is a well-known, accomplished photographer. He charmed us with his flamboyant personality, amazing advice and stories from around the world. He raised the bar so high presenting his life and career as aspirational that no one dared to ask questions at the end of his speech. It was a very awkward moment as he was open and ready to share more. He left the stage disappointed, one could tell. Great lesson for those who paid attention.
You’re Having a Blackout
This may happen even to the most experienced. Or to those who rehearsed. I was giving a presentation on a Lunch & Learn type of event recently and, at some point, I completely forgot what was the next slide about. I had prepared well but I ignored the importance of having a safety net.
How to avoid this -> work with a mental map to include main ideas and, most importantly, the connection between them. This can fail you though so I suggest a way safer approach – always use a presentation setup that shows upcoming slides on your laptop. Don’t go without this!
If you’re feeling confident -> be authentic, smile and admit you forgot. I instantly decided to turn it into a learning opportunity for the group. I unfolded the case, explained why this may happen and what you can do about it. I then engaged with the group to investigate solutions together. An ad hoc practical exercise everyone will remember!
Can Tiny Details Ruin Attendees Experience? You Bet!
Let’s be honest: most of us make sure everyone has a chair and can see the presentation area properly. But there’s more to it. Halfway a two-hour presentation for a group of 20 people, I was leaning against the wall: the audience was highly engaged in a debate and I was pleased with the ideas they were producing. Only very late I noticed the person near me had to turn her head in a quite uncomfortable manner to be able to see me.
How to avoid this -> the sitting plan for a presentation/training is a well-documented topic. Unless you’re presenting in a 200 seat hall, choices are the U, V and Bistro patterns. They ensure excellent visibility of the presentation and the speaker for everyone. Always visit the premises before the event to understand where you should sit and what are the limitations in case you want to move around.
Advice -> encourage the audience to let you know if they encounter difficulties in following you.
You Run the Show But It’s Not About You
Playing the “expert” card may not be (and shouldn’t be) your chosen strategy but be aware that you can fall for that very easily. A long time ago I was asked to host a concise presentation on one of the platforms I manage. I got carried away and offered as many details as I could within the given time. I am very excited about how sophisticated digital marketing is today – I want to share everything with the world!
A very articulated post-session feedback made me think:
Maybe a reminder about the session being an opportunity for the audience to address questions, initiate discussions, not only for the host to present something, thus them to do all the talking.
A cold shower or a blessing in disguise? Both, I’d say.
How to avoid this -> deliver only as much as your audience can assimilate. Throw a couple of ideas on the table and wait to see if the group requires more in-depth info. Be prepared to deliver it. Pause often to give the group the opportunity to ask questions.
What’s the worse that could happen -> Aside from the feedback I just used for illustration, taking the “expert” approach can leave your audience confused and frustrated, unwilling to sign in for your further sessions.
We are all presenting in more or less formal context. We’ll be making mistakes in our early days. What I encourage you to do is to ask for honest feedback, it’s the only way to grow as a presenter. And if you happen to get stuck – as in my real life experience above – be authentic about it. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen – turn it into a learning opportunity for everyone!