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Five Ways to Kill A Presentation

5waysI’ve spoken at several conferences over the last few months, and when I’m there, I go to hear as many of the other speakers as I can.  I do it so I can benefit from their insights.

But I also can’t help seeing and hearing the things they do as presenters … what works and what doesn’t. 

And while there are a lot of good speakers out there, I keep seeing person after person unwittingly doing things that undermine their effectiveness and damage their credibility.  And I’m talking about things even some of the “good” speakers do.

One keynoter, who is well known in his field and was being paid BIG bucks, peppered his sentences with “ums” and “uhs” … while basically reciting what was on his Power Point slides!

You know how brutal it can be to sit through one of those sessions.

Look, there’s a time to use Power Point slides … when they say more or say it better than you can with your words alone.  A picture IS worth a thousand words.

Where Power Point is not helpful or appropriate or effective is as a billboard for text you basically read to people.  That’s not only boring, it practically guarantees you won’t be making a personal connection with your audience.

Why do people do it?  For most, it’s a crutch and a security blanket.  If they have slides for everything they’re gonna say, they don’t have to fully familiarize themselves with the content or worry about forgetting stuff.  

For others, they just don’t know any better.  They’ve seen so many people do it, they think that’s how it’s done.

Contrast that with a client of mine, a social media expert, who cut her number of slides down to the essentials and just talked to people.  It worked.  She felt great, and got the best results she’s ever gotten.

As for the “ums” and “uhs” and the rest of the verbal clutter, THERE’S NO EXCUSE.  It’s disrespectful and incredibly distracting.  A couple here or there … no big deal.  Dozens?  Hundreds?  No way. 

Substitute silence.  Learn how to pause and let your words sink in.  It isn’t that hard.  It just takes some effort and a little dedication.

One person started out with the usual mindless patter … “I’m happy to be here to see all the smiling faces in the room today.” And then he actually said, “I wish I could think of a better way to start off a talk.”

Uh huh.  Good thought.

Here’s the thing.  No fluff up front.  Grab their attention and generate interest right out of the gate.  Let ‘em know you mean business. 

One guy had a wonderful, warm, likable presence.  He should have been very successful, but he did a couple of things that undermined his presentation.

He apologized for his inexperience.

I’m sure he did it in an attempt to take the curse off of feeling like an “imposter.”  But what does that do to your credibility? 

It destroys it.  Never apologize for any shortcomings, imagined or real.  Just give them your best.  Nobody wants to hear that the captain of the ship doesn’t know all that much about the whole navigation thingy.

But the biggest thing?  He failed to offer enough substantive content.  Where’s the beef?  Missing.  Ouch.

Lastly, it often isn’t what you say or don’t say that makes the difference.  Much of the time, it’s your nonverbal behavior.

One woman who had a lot of good things to say, paced back and forth in front of the room like a caged cat.  Not only did that distract listeners from the message, it actually made me nervous.  I wanted to yell, “Stop it!”

The bottom line:  Speaking is about connecting.  Anything that gets in the way of that spells trouble.  Be mindful.  Really think through both your content and how you’re delivering the message. 

After all, it’s an honor when they ask you to speak, and you want to give them your very best … every time.

All the best,

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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!