1. You’re not looking them in the eye.
Human beings need connection, which happens when we make eye contact. If you’re a nervous speaker and some well-meaning person told you to “just look over the audience’s heads”, I’m afraid that was bad advice. Go ahead, you can do it – look your audience members in the eye! Don’t be afraid; they won’t bite. (They’ll probably even smile!) Make eye contact with everyone in the room, small 3 second bits of contact.
2. You’re talking too much about yourself.
Remember, every audience member is like every teenager you’ve ever known. They only care about themselves. Stop beginning your presentation with the “dots on the map”, the company history (yawn), the management hierarchy (snore). Until they know what you can do for them, they could care less about you or your company. Period.
3. You’re not speaking their language.
You’re not impressing them with your inside industry speak; you’re losing them. Worse, you’re making them feel stupid, and feeling stupid has a dangerous ricochet effect. It goes something like this; “I feel stupid. Feeling stupid feels bad. Who made me feel this way? The presenter did. Hmm, I feel bad about this presenter.” When speaking to any audience not directly in your industry or department, think 8 or 88 year old. If those two age groups could understand your message, you’re good to go.
4. You’ve got tons of text on your slides.
We read and listen with the same side of our brains. Thus, when you show a slide that requires your audience to read you are asking them to make a choice; either listen to you or read. They cannot do both at the same time. While they’re reading, they’re not connecting with you. They’re not hearing your message; they’re just reading. You are there, live and in person, for a reason. Don’t let lots of words on a slide upstage you.
5. You’re reading your slides to them.
This will only make eyes roll at best, and cause folks to completely tune you out at worst. Why? Because your audience can read. They don’t need you to read the slides to them. If you have nothing to add to what’s on your slides, either a) email them the slides and call it a day. Or b) DELETE 90% of what’s on your slides and tell them the message yourself.
6. You’re not being yourself.
Please do not give them the “super serious business persona”. C’mon, you know what I mean. The façade you plaster over your real self. I’m not suggesting you show up in your pj’s and scruffy slippers, yawning and stretching, possibly swearing. But let’s peel back that phony veneer and let some real live honest to goodness YOU come through. THAT’s what the great ones do, and audiences love them for it, connect with them through it, and get the message. Do it with YOU in it, and you’ll be heard.