10 Ways to UNimpress When You’re Presenting

1)  Apologizing:  For being unprepared, afraid, for your PowerPoint slides being in the wrong order, impossible to read, inaccurate…

2)  Having and showing PowerPoint slides that are in the wrong order, impossible to read, inaccurate, too busy, too “flashy”:  Remember,  when it comes to visuals. Don’t let your slides put you in a metaphorical straight jacket. (for more on that; read this)

3)  Talking to the slides instead of to your audience: They should be looking at you – unless you’re showing compelling data to back up a point you’re making – and you should be looking at them.

4)  ‘You know’ing and ‘I mean’ ing all over the place:  ‘You know’ and ‘I mean’ are two phrases that bespeak insecurity. Repeatedly saying “You know” is asking the audience for confirmation, agreement, positive reinforcement; none of which are their job or duty to give. “I mean” tells them you’re not exactly sure what you mean. Do them a favor and figure out what you mean before you get in front of them.

5)  Winging it: Unless you’re a tiny percent of the population, if you’re winging it it’s going to show. Best case, you’ll look a little unstructured; worst case, your audience will be thinking, “Presenter; unprepared. Me; unimpressed.”

6)  Bragging about winging it: Like bragging about coming to a sales meeting blind – when you’re the guy selling. Not a way to instill confidence in you, or show respect for your audience and their time.

7)  Looking (and feeling) frazzled, unorganized, and or uncomfortable:  Your audience can’t relax and fully engage with you and your message if you’re struggling with the clicker or microphone, searching for your notes, or commenting on the acoustics, lighting or logistics. This is probably happening because you’re…

8)  Arriving just before you’re scheduled to speak: Nothing says ‘this presentation is not a priority’ like a speaker flying into the room just minutes before he or she is ‘on’. As an audience member, that pretty much hits the bulls eye of UNimpressive. Get there early; check out the layout of the room, the lights, sound, projector, and click through your slides. You should know the room so well, it should feel like home – a home into which you can welcome your audience.

9)  Saying something ‘funny’ about politics, religion or sex: It may be hilarious to you and your friends and family. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have at least 50% of your audience not so amused. DO NOT make jokes about anything having to do with these three topics. Period.

10) Attempting to be like a speaker you admire: Those speakers are great because they’re being authentic. If you try to imitate them you won’t impress (or fool) anyone. You’ll only succeed in looking like an amateur, or worse, coming across as phony. BE YOU.

Don’t panic if you recognize yourself in any of these UNimpressive behaviors. Make a promise to change starting now. You’ll be wowing audiences in no time. Better yet, you’ll be heard.

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