10 Tips to Give a Knockout Presentation
By Diane DiResta
Whether you’re pitching an idea, selling your service, or presenting at an event or conference, it’s all public speaking. And in today’s highly competitive environment you can no longer avoid this vital skill.
Here are the most common mistakes presenters make:
- Lack of Focus-Most speakers have good content. But if the speech shoots out in all directions you’ll lose your audience. Practice your speech out loud, time it, and be prepared for questions afterward. To create focus, complete this sentence: At the end of the presentation the audience will__________. Build your points around this desired outcome.
- Speaking too long-Starting and ending your presentation late shows a lack of respect for the audience. Arrive early. Create a long and short version of your speech and know how to cut and summarize the presentation if you sense you’re running out of time.
- Not knowing the audience-One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a presenter is not meeting the needs of your audience. It’s a great way to turn an otherwise receptive group into a hostile one. Don’t talk over people’s heads, but don’t be too simplistic either. If you’re giving the same speech to different groups, tailor it for each audience. This can be a challenge where today there are four generations in the workplace. Profile the audience before you develop the talk. Millennial audiences have different expectations from boomers and traditionalists.
- Projecting the wrong image-This is an instant credibility killer, and it’s related to mistake number three. A flashy outfit won’t work if you’re speaking to bankers or tech companies. A slick, “big city” style doesn’t do it for farmers in Kansas. So leave the Manolos home. Dress one notch higher than your audience and be in sync with their culture. The goal is to look professionally attractive but not so riveting that they focus on your ensemble rather than the message.
- Using visual aids ineffectively-If you fumble with visual aids, you’ll eventually lose credibility. Visuals should support and enhance the presentation, not take it over. Aim for more photos, graphs, and images with minimal text on the slide to pique audience interest. Write out your transitions and practice pausing when advancing the slides. Test all your equipment before you speak, If you’re using a laptop, always have handouts as a backup.
- Data Dump/Starting with detail- You can overwhelm the audience with too much data. The mind can absorb only what the seat can endure. Three or four points are sufficient for most presentations. Your message will be clearer and more memorable. So tell them what they need to know-not everything you know.
- Using inappropriate humor- Audiences are politically sensitive and culturally diverse. It’s easy to offend a group. All it takes is one questionable joke or statement to turn people off. Never tell off-color jokes. The best bet is to poke fun at yourself—or avoid jokes altogether.
- Speaking in a monotone– Too many speakers fail to realize the importance vocal tone plays in the success of their presentation. To raise energy, speak louder or highlight key words for emphasis. Enthusiasm sells. Get excited about your message or die on the platform!
- Speaker-centered-Effective speakers connect with their audience. Too many presenters start with their own agenda and then wonder why they don’t get the desired response. Surprisingly, many salespeople are speaker-centered. They’re so interested in pushing their product or service that they forget about the buyer’s needs. Begin your presentation from the listener’s point of view and continue to address what’s important to them. Ask yourself “What is their number one benefit?” and make that your hook.
- Offering weak evidence-Some speakers don’t support their ideas. It’s often referred to as “not enough meat on the bones.” Build a case by including statistics, personal stories, examples, analogies, demonstrations, pictures, testimonials, conceptual models, and historical data.
Follow these 10 speaking tips and you’ll be a knockout on the platform every time!
© Diane DiResta 2011. All rights reserved.
Diane DiResta is president of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses. www.DiResta.com The 3rd edition will be available in September.