10 Common Presentation Mistakes

Everybody makes presentation mistakes, even the most trained presenters. In this guide, the top ten most common mistakes are briefly explained, so you can avoid them next time you give a presentation.

Mistake 1: Not Preparing Enough

Though one of the key points to delivering a presentation or pitch is spontaneity and flexibility, the best presentations are concisely well-structured. Great speakers like Barack Obama and Steve Jobs, have always practiced their future speeches endlessly. It goes without saying that without this preparation, their oratory talents would have been considered to be less influential and revolutionary.

Preparing your presentation to a higher level helps you in structuring your presentation, handling your presentation nerves and allows for you to divert your attention from the content of your presentation to delivering your presentation.

Mistake 2: No knowledge concerning your location and material

Whenever you prepare a presentation, know your audience and setting. Do you intend to use a Powerpoint presentation in your talk? Make sure that a beamer is present and functional. Do you want to point out some things in your presentation? Bring along a pointing stick or laser pointer.

This way, you will minimize unwelcome surprises like a non-functioning beamer and strange gestures towards some distant spot on a screen.

Mistake 3: Paying too little attention to your audience

The goal of a presentation is to deliver your ideas or views to your audience. That also means, that the message you try to convey is tailored to your audience. Be sure to check with your audience that your points have come across and that they understand them.

By starting off your presentation with its structure, your audience will know what to expect and they know whether they can intervene during your presentation, or when they are able to ask questions.

Mistake 4: Not tailoring your content to your audience

It is very important to know your audience before you construct a presentation. You will have to present differently to a group of first-graders than to a group of adults. Your presentation will be different when speaking to your peers, compared to a group of laymen.

Try to adapt your presentation to your audience by viewing yourself through their eyes. What is their background, and how up-to-date is their knowledge concerning the topic of your presentation.

Mistake 5: Stretching out your presentation

Try to limit your presentation to a few key points. Presentations will appear dull and endless when you try to address too many subjects and topics. Construct a clear idea of what it is exactly you wish to convey to your audience, and use that as a template for your presentation, and build on from that. In that way, you will be short, but concise and deliver your information and ideas most efficiently.

Mistake 6: Ineffective graphics

Make sure that the graphics you use in your presentations (e.g. pictures, graphs, videos, animations) are in line with your presentation. When these aids are not alligned, your presentation will seem sloppy and cheap.

To prevent this, pay careful attention to the colors you use and make sure they match. Pay attention to the pictures you pick, and make sure they are of sufficient quality. This way, they will not be overstretched and appear pixellated.

Mistake 7: Not concentrating your text

 One major pitfall in presenting with a Powerpoint presentation is trying to cram all your information on a slide. A slide is not a cheat sheet from which you can read off your text, so you don't have to know your scripted text by heart. A slide should be intended to assist you in conveying your message to the audience.

Easiest guideline to follow is keeping it simple and clear. Try to limit the points you address on a single slide to a minimum (few bullet points) and only use the slide as a supplementary information or a summary.

Mistake 8: Sloppy speech

Public speaking is an inextricable part of a good presentation. Talking too quickly, slurring your words or stuttering are contraproductive in delivering your message to your audience. Presentation nerves can be a big part of speaking sloppily.

Take your time for your presentation. If you notice you are speaking too fast, or get nervous, do not be afraid to stop and take a deep breath. One other helpful technique is recording yourself when practicing your presentation, in this way you can hear whenever your speaking is getting unintelligible.

Mistake 9: Being too static

A balance between movement and statis is very important in a presentation. If you remain standing behind a desk for the entire time, and remain motionless, your presentation will appear very boring. On the other hand, if you jump around and move aimlessly, you will appear very chaotic and impulsive. Too much of either is bad for conveying your message, so try to balance between moving around and standing still.

Key point in this is pay attention to your body language, as it is a very big part of how an audience receives your information.

Mistake 10: Not paying attention to your audience

As mentioned before, the connection between the presenter and his/her audience is key for delivering the main message. Paying attention to your audience is thus very important. Make contact with your audience, visually (eye contact) to see whether they understand what you mean.  If they look puzzeled or confused, be sure to ask where the problem lies and further explain your points.