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3 Presentation Mistakes You Have To Avoid

This post is about presentation mistakes you must avoid.

presentation mistakes, web conferencing, audio equipment, internet culture, scott stratten, entrepreneur magazine, las vegas, professional speakers, presentation, presentations, mistake, teleconferencing, during, lost, avoid, slides, mistakes, speakers

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I’m sorry but I’m starting to get frustrated. And I’m due for a rant anyway.

If you are making these presentation mistakes then you’d better stop. Or I’m going to walk out. Quietly so you won’t see me.

Or I’ll just slowly stop listening.

Until all I hear is a soft buzzing of the audio equipment in the back. And the sound of a few chairs squeaking due to other uneasy victims being sucked into the vortex.

I do a lot of presentations and I’m not here to say that I am a big-time professional speaker. With the best slides and the A-list type content.

Someday Perhaps.

But I am watching you. To see what I can learn from you.

And lately I have been watching a lot of presentations. And seeing a lot of presentation mistakes. Great for me actually. To compare the good, the bad and the ugly. And to push myself to get better.

So I’ve picked three presentation mistakes that I’ve seen over the past weeks. Some at a few big events (hint, I am writing from Las Vegas. Attending the Blog World Expo). As they happen, these mistakes feel like a slowly building stomach sickness. But more than that? I feel really frustrated. That quality speakers would make these mistakes:

1.  Being Incredibly off-topic and apparently insensitive to the time of participants

Penelope Trunk offered a free webinar with Guy Kawasaki a few months ago. It was about how to be a great entrepreneur. Funny thing is that I like them both. They been recent influences on my writing and thought process. But when an hour-long webinar starts with 20 minutes of “friendly chit chat” about Twitter and other unrelated topics, I get upset. I feel disrespected. While the chat room is burning up with “When are we going to start talking about being an entrepreneur” and it goes on for 10 more minutes? I’m done. And I was. Then I unplugged. Bummer. As I was looking forward to the webinar.

2.  Trying to cram 100 slides (short novel per slide) into an hour presentation

I have seen two of these recently. One at an otherwise excellent Entrepreneur Magazine “Winning Strategies” event in Long Beach. A very smart person. And a marketing wizard. And apparently a purveyor of as many slides/words as possible. If people can’t follow you (too much content or content out of context), they will detach from what you are saying. Many walked out.  Which I don’t like to do. Because often I’m wondering whether the speaker will figure it out. And fix it.

3.  Being a big slug with no evidence of blood running through your veins

This can show up in two different ways. First, it shows as a lack of physical movement. Except those tiny mouth muscles, of course. If you can’t burn a few calories tearing up the stage, you have a problem. Unless they just re-painted the podium and your hands are stuck, get away from it. Second, it is lacking in the excitement or energy displayed in the voice of the speaker. Is this an obituary? It’s called voice inflection, folks. It tells me that something interesting is coming soon or was just dropped in my lap.

The reason this is coming out now? I saw Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) speak here at Blog World yesterday as the AM keynote and kicked things off with an amazing presentation.

He provoked me and romanced the crowd. He was loud and spoke at times like a cherry bomb exploding. And had awesome hand and arm gestures. Yes, those are important too.

Scott was relevant (room full of bloggers and social media folks). He had the right number of slides, awesome images. He also had great stories, made us laugh and allowed us to laugh a few times at him.

I was fully engaged.

And if he made presentation mistakes, I didn’t see them. Scott lived up to his brand promise: “Stop marketing. Start engaging.”

If you are looking for work, looking to make an impact at the next board meeting or needing to create a big impression at a future cross-functional team meeting . . .

Be interesting, relevant and dynamic.

Oh, and you might want to buy Scott’s book called UN-Marketing. And If you live in Orange County, Scott will be speaking November 11 at the next LinkedOC event.

I’ll be there.

What presentation mistakes give you the willies?  Or the wobblies?

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Marketing Materials
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  • Anonymous

    I call it “Speaker University”. Every presenter…. Good or bad…. Is a professor. I have spent 12 years watching.

    Get over being frustrated, the crappy speakers who waste time are not going away. Fame brings opportunities to speak and the bad speakers will still take the cash.

    But when you see a speaker who can captivate an audience ….. Enjoy it and learn from the good professor!!!!

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  • Glen Loock

    Thanks for the post. I am preparing to do some instruction on the importance of a strategy for your social media presence. I fall back on the concept I was taught at Xerox, each slide in your presentation is equal to 3 minutes. So for a sixty minute presentation you get 20 slides. A slide presentation should be bullet points that you talk to. You do not write out your presentation and read it from the slides; your audience is capable of reading. Use bullet points to capture the thought that you want to say, that is why PowerPoint has a notes section.

    I was at that same presentation in Long Beach and found myself doing anything else but listening. The thought of putting a sharp stick in my eye was way up on the top of the list. I just could not find a sharp stick.

  • Oh but Thom, when will I rant? Agree that there is a lot to be learned no matter the subject in life. By watching those who are awesome and those who are painfully bad at something. You need to connect with Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing) – he was awesome.

  • Thanks Glen – Yes, I have heard that rule too. I will forgive someone a few mistakes if they make up for it (bad slides but great energy). I am learning every day as I watch . . . and hoping to get better myself!

  • Tim, I for one have been guilty of speaking without enthusiasm. Do you have any tips or blogs that would allow someone to develop or practice this @Trakpartner

  • Hey John – I think it depends on your content, the environment and your audience. But largely for me it is having a passion for your material. Along with a real empathy/interest in helping people get better/smarter. If you are serious about speaking and would like to talk with someone, I recommend Thom Singer (see his comment on this post) at http://thomsinger.com. He is a professional speaker and a coach for those who want to do the same . . .

  • Great comments Tim, I agree. Sometimes I wonder if what these professional speaker types need is a Re-boot button. That is, they give speech after speech and can forget the passion or carry over impressions and feedback from previous audiences that can be either irrelevant or inappropriate to the new one. There’s also kind of desensitization that seems to happen with staying in touch with the audience. There are a few exceptions like Scott Stratten, Seth Godin and others I’ve seen. But I think presenters need to be careful not to bring in preconceived notions or baggage from their last speech in say Cleveland, if they’re suddenly talking to a group of Orange County business people. It’s not the same.

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  • Hi TimIt seems the new frontier for bad presentations is the webinar. People who should know better let go of the principles of effective presenting.I read another post recently about Scott Stratten. Sounds like he’s an awesome presenter.Olivia

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  • Thanks Bryan – Great point about the baggage. Somehow there needs to be a rebirth in between each presentation. A fresh look at the material and why they sharing ideas publicly in the first place. Look forward to seeing Scott again at LinkedOC.

  • Hi Olivia – Yes, webinars are really different. When I do them, I have to change my approach since I can’t see the audience. One-way energy. But I still think we can control staying on topic and having an energy to our voice that keeps people with you. Thanks for your comment.

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  • Thanks so much for this. I can only speak for myself but I only speak about topics that get me fired up like a spastic monkey. Hence what you saw 🙂

    And yes, phone, online or in person, we as presenters have to respect the audience, both on a time stand point and respect. Without them, we’d just be blabbering idiots to ourselves. Which I do when no on stage

  • Anonymous

    Hey Tim!
    This is a good one.
    I only hope people read and fix what you’ve pointed out here.
    And thanks for turning me on to Scott Stratten.

  • Thanks GK – As I said in the post, I am still learning myself. But Scott’s energy and content were lights out! Pay attention to him and if you can, find a time to see him live.

  • Thanks Jamie – Yes, I could see him as a stand-up comic. He makes it all look so easy and enjoyable. 🙂

  • No problem, Scott. I hope the post will turn a few people on to you and the new book. Appreciate your stopping by and sharing those thoughts. Look forward to another dose of awesome in November. 🙂

  • Scott, I watched the video from your #unbook tour in Detroit and loved it. From everything I saw, and that Tim said above, I can’t wait to see you when you visit Orange County next month!

    Amber @wordsdonewrite

  • Anonymous

    Fo Sho! I’ve been following unmarketing on twitter. however, i hope to read more out of you too 🙂

  • You are welcome back any time!

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  • Jamie Favreau

    I saw Scott speak in Detroit and he was very engaging. He didn’t even use slides which I think made the presentation more interesting because you were focused only on him. He is very engaging and he should have been a stand up comic. Hell, he still can be. He is very good at his craft and I give him kudos for it.

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  • Great post. I’ve met Scott a few times and saw him speak at his book tour stop. Very engaging and funny, and didn’t use visuals (which is okay!). He knows his content inside and out and was very passionate about his content and happy to meet everyone who attended. He was the last one to leave!

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