Dos and Don'ts of Presentations

I am not an expert on social media, but I have been using facebook, twitter and blogging for some time, so I do have some basic knowledge of how these social media applications work. Recently, I decided I would attend some local events on social media to learn from others who are also using this medium to share information and ideas. After all, there is always something new to learn, right? So, when I read about a free presentation being offered on social media, I thought I would pop in and see what nuggets of new knowledge I could mine.

I must say, I had to work harder to dig up these nuggets than I thought I would, as the presenter, who may well have been extremely knowledgeable, lacked some basic presentation skills. In fact, the presenter managed to include so many presentation “Don’ts” I decided I would blog about it. The presentation was so confusing, I even began to doubt what I already knew. I felt sorry for those in the audience who were completely new to the topic, as I am sure from the blank faces and coffee chatter afterwards that they did not gather as much information as they were hoping for from the talk. So what were the big “Don’ts” the presenter did?

#1.Don’t choose a location which detracts from your audience’s ability to engage with you – This event was held in a public place, with the presenter speaking three feet from a set of doors leading outside. People entered and left constantly, distracting the presenter and the audience. Loud music was being played, which made the presenter hard to hear by those in the back.

DO: Choose your location carefully, keeping in mind room set up, and nearby activity. The audience is there to see and hear you. Make sure you are the centre of their attention.

#2. Don’t create slides you need to apologize for – PowerPoint slides are a popular way to present information. The presenter had slides with cute cartoons and lovely graphics. However, some slides were completely irrelevant to the subject matter. Sometimes the font was so small it could not be read and the light colours used meant that even text that was larger was hard to see. The presenter compounded his mistakes by apologizing for the small font and colours. If you know it is going to be difficult to see, don’t use that cute graphic or interesting quote. Make sure the slide information is relevant and underlines a point. Some of the graphics used in this presentation seemed to only be showcasing the presenters knowledge of PowerPoint, and because they were irrelevant, the audience was lost.

DO: Be critical when you are reviewing your slides.   Slides should complement and underline points made in your presentation. Choose the content wisely, and make sure their content can be seen by your audience.

#3. Don’t let your slide show upstage you – The presenter was completely distracted by the slides, constantly turning and speaking to the slides, not the audience. That made it very difficult to hear what the presenter was saying, especially since it was already a noisy location with constant foot traffic and loud background music.

DO: Look at your audience when you are speaking, make eye contact, project your voice loudly enough so you can be heard or use a PA system. The slides support your presentation, not the other way around. Know your subject matter and what you want to say well enough that you don’t need to rely on reading your slides.

#4.Don’t be so disorganized with your presentation you lose the audience – The session was billed as an introduction to the topic. Some members of the audience knew a little about the topic while others were completely new to the subject matter. The slides may have had some cute graphics, but there was no organization to the overall presentation. Key concepts were missed. Slides were confusing. The presenter backtracked. I felt compelled on two occasions to ask a question of clarification as I could tell I was not the only one in the room who was having trouble understanding the point being made.

DO:   Create an outline for your presentation and review it critically. Make sure you are capturing all the key points. Tell the audience what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them. Have a logical flow to your presentation and build upon ideas. Try to create a common frame of reference for those new to a topic, especially for an introductory session.

#5. Don’t restart your presentation for the latecomers– The presenter started shortly after the advertised time for the session, which was great. However, for the next five minutes, whenever a new person joined the audience, the presenter paused until they sat. Then at the five or six minute mark, about 5 slides in, the presenter rewound to the first slide and began the presentation again to accommodate the latecomers. This was an insult to those that were on time.

DO: Start your presentation as much on time as possible. It is often not necessary to acknowledge latecomers, but if it is, invite them to be seated and continue.

Regardless, I did manage to mine a few nuggets of information on social media from the presenter and I thank them for the presentation. Getting up in front of a crowd can be difficult if you have not presented often, but with planning, practice and forethought you can increase your success factors.