The Worst Mistakes in Presentations and How to Fix Them

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We all make mistakes; “To err is human”, but there are certain things we hope to accomplish without flaw. Presentations are one of them. Nobody wants to sit through another dull, unoriginal presentation. Yet because so many are created every day, it’s become the norm to just accept that presentations are going to be boring and prone to error.

Instead of simply going with the flow, elevate your presentations. Remove the mistakes and correct them before they make it to the screen. Let’s look at some of the worst mistakes made in presentations and how to fix them.

Irrelevant Content

You should understand your audience and know what’s important to them. If you aren’t familiar with their needs, wants and motivations, it’s time to do your homework. Consider what will inspire them to respond to your message. Customizing your content to each, specific audience alleviates the mistake of delivering content that is irrelevant and doesn’t connect.

Pro Tips:
Many teams (and individual presenters) will build large decks with hundreds of slides so they have a library of content to pull from when they fine-tune a presentation to a particular audience. Try these easy tricks:

  • Keep all versions of your slides in one master deck. Pull individual slides into a new presentation when you need them.
  • Break them down into sections, like Charts/Projections, Setup/Problems, Messaging/Negative, etc.
  • Label each slide using a text box above the viewable area of the slide so you can search for it later when your deck has too many slides to easily wade through. You can fake tagging each slide by adding an “x” or “z” in front individual words. For example, if you labeled a slide “Solution 41”, change that to “xSolution41” so you can easily search for it without getting results that are on the viewable parts of your slides.
  • If you’re using PowerPoint try the Custom Slide Show feature (Slide Show > Custom Show). This allows you to have multiple slide shows set up from one deck; each with a different subset of slides.

Don’t Be A Windbag

Keep your presentations short and sweet. Verbose presentations can be confusing, boring and off-putting. Your time can either be spent on hard-hitting main points or long-winded setups and explanations. Take the time to edit for brevity and impact! If you take too long to get to the good stuff, your audience could already be checking out.

Pro Tips:

  • Know the “So-What?” for every slide. Ask yourself how the information you put on EVERY slide is furthering your message and moving your audience along a mental path towards your desired goal. If the information isn’t helping with this, ditch it or leave it for a QA session or place it in an appendix.
  • STOP (please stop, seriously) writing down everything on your slides! Pull out the basics like: Main Adjective / Main Noun (or Verb), then speak to that. Click, build in the next adjective/noun combo and speak to that. Click, etc. When you place all your text on the slides your audience will read the text while you are speaking it. Humans can only focus on one thing at a time, so you are causing confusion by having them read and listen at the same time.

Cheap Graphics

High-quality graphics help to clarify complex information and give your presentation a professional look. Low-quality images do just the opposite. They make your slides look “clunky” and lower your credibility.

Instead of using free (or stolen) clipart and images from a Google search, use professional quality imagery. Usually this means finding some good stock imagery websites and getting a subscription plan. These are well worth it! You don’t have to spend a fortune, though the higher priced graphics do tend to be better.

Pro Tips:

Don’t feel defeated if these mistakes sound familiar. Most presentations contain one or more of these mistakes. If you need some help figuring it out, rely on the presentation design experts at KO/AD to keep your slides on point with the right copy and visuals. Learn more about how we help presenters make an impact.

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