3 avoidable but very common mistakes that speakers make which reduce their impact

In the last of a series of 5 extracts from an interview I did with Errol Williamson, I talk about the 3 most common mistakes professionals make when delivering speeches and presentations.

EW: You’ve heard many business speakers deliver speeches and presentations, some have been great and some have been not so great, but what are the three typically common avoidable mistakes that you’ve noticed, and what recommendation would you give for overcoming each of those mistakes?

HT:      The first one is not being close enough to your material. When you really, really know your stuff your presentation goes so much better, you can be flexible in the moment, you can increase it if you’ve got more time, and you can decrease it if you’ve got less time. So many people get unstuck because they don’t know their material and their content well enough, and as a result they can’t flex in the moment, if something goes wrong like the projector is broken they’re completely stuffed. So the more you know the material the more you can handle what’s chucked at you.

The second avoidable mistake I see is that people get wedded to PowerPoint. PowerPoint itself is not the problem is how people use it. As Lee Jackson says (of the Professional Speaking Association), Lee Jackson is the author of ‘PowerPoint Surgeon’, is that your PowerPoint should be billboards rather than War and Peace, so cut the text down. I would actually recommend for a lot of people to go cold turkey on it, go six months and every presentation you deliver do not use slides. Just don’t use them and that will get you out of any comfort zone because far too often people start designing their presentation using slides. Actually that’s not the way to do it, you need to design your presentation and then consider what visuals and what key messages you would like to add- in to emphasise the key points you want to make.

The third thing is that people are too dry with their presentations, its either they talk in a very monotone way, or they’re very text based. People want to be engaged, people want to really get into the material, so the more visuals, the more stories that you can tell… the worst thing you can do is repeat dry facts in case studies, bring the story alive and make the human connection.

Those are my three avoidable mistakes.

Further Reading

  1. 4 tips to help overcome yourself and ditch your fear of public speaking
  2. 5 ways to truly present like the pros
  3. 11 speaking tips from the pros for when it really matters
  4. How to give the best presentation of your life when pitching your business case at your partnership panel interview
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