You put real effort into your presentation, you went through all the slides one by one, you took notes and even practiced your presentation in front of the mirror. But when you gave your talk in public, the reaction of the audience was rather moderate. There are some people whispering to each other, others are looking at their watches or boredly leafing through their handouts. Chances are you’ve made one or even several mistakes. I would like to share with you in this blog post the five most common stumbling blocks that quickly ruin your audience’s mood, and moreover, offer solutions.
Mistake 1: You bore your audience already with the headline
The nuts and bolts of successful presentations is creating and maintaining excitement and attention. If I have a positive expectation of a lecture, my willingness to engage with the speaker and his topic is naturally greater than if I suspect from the outset that a dull slide battle awaits me. The first clue to the form and content of a presentation is given by the presentation title. If the title of a presentation makes you yawn, it gives you an idea of what to expect.
But that’s just the first impression a visitor to your presentation will get. You should already arouse the interest of your audience with the topic heading by creating emotions. You can do this, for example, if you create consternation. The title “The economic development of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2017 with special consideration of the export economy in crisis regions” sounds very dry and academic and will probably not evoke any emotions in the audience. The title “Economy 2017 – Crash Danger for Germany?” immediately brings up something that can trigger emotions: the danger of a crash. This affects us all, so I would like to know right away how great the danger is.
Let me bring you another example. To which lecture will probably come more listeners: To “New archaeological findings from the analysis of artifacts from the Celtic grave find in Niederbrombach”, or to “The truth about Asterix and Obelix – The world of the Gauls between art and warfare”? In the first case, while I certainly expect high-quality content, I fear that the presentation will be dry as dust. The allusion to Asterix and Obelix signals that knowledge is being imparted here in an entertaining way. Even with prior archaeological knowledge, more people would probably opt for this presentation simply because there they expect a higher entertainment value. So, even if your topic is not very exciting, still try to create emotions. This appeals to your audience more than reciting facts.
Mistake 2: You are not telling a story (storytelling)
Modern presentation software, such as PowerPoint or Prezi, offers a wealth of slide design options. It is not uncommon for speakers to lose themselves in technical effects and gimmicks without considering the needs of the audience – a fatal mistake. This is somewhat reminiscent of technically elaborate Hollywood films, which push the plot and the actors into the background because of all the “special effects”. These films then seem somehow sterile and apart from the technical bombast usually nothing sticks with the moviegoer. But even a 200 million budget can’t compensate for a bad story and pale actors with computer effects. Audiences want a good story and characters they can identify with.
It’s no different with a good presentation. Your audience is also grateful for a good story and will follow you willingly if you master “storytelling” in your presentation. No matter who is sitting across from you in the auditorium, everyone likes to be entertained and emotionally engaged. A professional presentation is a first-class designed set of slides plus a good storyteller who provides the emotions and a frame story. You should also not trust that your facts compiled on 40 slides will be remembered. This will overwhelm your audience. A rousing story, on the other hand, is much better remembered. If you can tell a good story while incorporating key facts from your PowerPoint presentation, you stand a good chance of making a lasting positive impression.
Error 3: Your presentation does not contain graphics, images or animations
The opposite of exuberant effects and technical gimmicks is the abandonment of loosening images or graphics. There are still many slide sets that consist only of text. A great imposition for your viewers. Text is much more difficult to store in our brain than, for example, images. It becomes especially fatal for your audience’s attention if they have to listen to you and read the text of the slides at the same time. This cannot work. People will focus on either you or your slides. Your audience becomes stressed and, in the worst case, loses interest in following your presentation altogether. Images can be processed much better by the brain and at the same time the viewer can follow your explanations. Images can also be optimally combined with a good story, as images also appeal to our emotional sensibilities.
Mistake 4: You overload the slide with logos and images
However, images in the presentation do not mean that you have to cover everything with pictures. Above all, the bad habit of putting as many company logos on it as possible is widespread. But this spoils the readability of the slides, confuses and unnecessarily stresses your audience. A slide should reveal its information with a quick glance. Nobody wants to start searching where to find the information among logos, slogans and background images.
Mistake 5: You offer supervised reading instead of a lively lecture
A common mistake is reading the slide text out loud instead of free speech. Not only does this look very awkward, it underwhelms your audience when you read the slides to them. This very quickly leads to boredom and a very negative judgment of the speaker. I like to call this kind of thing “supervised reading,” and it’s the surest way to blow your presentation out of the water. Your slide set should emphasize what you are telling and not be identical to your presentation. Even if it’s a bit of a challenge, there’s unfortunately no way around the free speech if you want to be successful in front of an audience. If you want to convince, you have to generate emotions. This does not work when you read a text.
Dipl.-Wirtsch.-Informatiker Matthias Garten as the expert for multimedia presentations and professional PowerPoint presentations knows about the art of professional slide design. He is an entrepreneur, speaker (TOP 100 Speaker), trainer (TOP 100 Excellence Trainer), multiple book author, presentation coach (presentation training), member of the GSA and Club 55, organizer of the Presentation Conference, Presentation Bootcamp and Presentation Rocket Days. In addition to PowerPoint and presentation training, he inspires and advises companies to present themselves even more effectively and thus stand out from competitors. He is the business owner of the presentation and PowerPoint agency smavicon Best Business Presentations and with his team has created over 15,000 professional PowerPoint presentations for over 150 industries since 1993.