The 5 Don’ts of Presentations – 5 Sins you better avoid in your presentations

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Presentations have to be given. Whether at school, at work or wherever else. Often, presentations are critical for your development – either you are judged and graded based on them, or you have to promote yourself and your ideas. So make sure that whatever you present is presented in the right way. Here are 5 things you should better not do in a presentation – the 5 Don’ts of Presentations.

Maybe you wouldn’t expect all of them, although they are quite simple. Let’s investigate the 5 Don’ts of Presentations.

Don'ts of presentations

  1. Rely on bullet points.

We can identify 5 Don’t of presentations, and the first one you most probably have seen quite often before. In the worst presentations, the presenter simply reads the bullet points off the screen. There is no desire to involve the audience, to give extra information, to make it exciting.

But it would be so easy to prevent the first of the 5 Don’ts of Presentations. When you consider all the options available to convey your information in a colourful way, you see that it is not hard:

  • Approach the subject from a different angle– We all know movies where we know where we know after the first few minutes what the entire plot will be about. We sit through the rest to finally see that our assumptions were correct. But what you need it the thrill of the unforeseen.
  • Mix it up– Make your presentation dynamic. Some slides with bullets, some with a graphic, some with a cartoon, with charts and so on. Your goal is to keep surprising the audience.
  • Keep it readable– We have to admit, there is one advantage of a pure bullet-point presentation: the audience is able to follow along. But as we learnt, bullets are not all. Therefore, rely on other elements, but keep them readable. Don’t choose overly complex charts or cartoons with tiny, unreadable text. The type should be minimal but large enough to decipher from the back of the room.
  1. Make it purely objective and sober.

The second one of the 5 Don’ts of presentations is to make it relentlessly sober. You know how it feels to sit in a seemingly never-ending conference, in an endless lecture, or to see one boring presentation after another. What you need is passion, thrill, humour.

You might think that it would be unfitting to use humour in a presentation or to become subjective at some point. But that is marketing. Don’t be too afraid that using humour means losing credibility. What would you prefer? A sober Latin lesson or an entertaining presentation that captures you?

This does not mean that you have to become a stand-up comic and use a great lightshow in order to entertain your audience. Graphics, words, and your appearance are enough.

  1. Explain the self-evident.

This is certainly one of the 5 Don’ts of Presentations that can be seen in nearly every presentation. You always give some facts, and often that involves explaining the self-evident. But do not state the obvious! In most cases, you’re standing before an audience of professionals. They know what you are talking about. So do not try to explain to them what they learned years ago.

The key is to present fresh, new ideas. Insightful, surprising facts. New approaches to a topic, or an alternative point of view.

So attempt to discuss the topic in a broader context. Link it to other disciplines. Without doubt, you as the presenter are the thought leader. Use that opportunity to lead thoughts into a new, unique direction!

  1. Use clashing graphics.

We are nearly at the end of our 5 Don’ts of Presentations. If you are glad to never have done one of the above ones, you certainly relied on this sin: using clashing graphics. Certainly, a visually attractive presentation, with nice graphics, detailed and stunning photos and so on will capture your audience. But eventually they will pay moer attention to the clashing graphics than to the actual content. They will not listen to what you want to tell them anymore. Therefore, maintain a single style. If you’re using black-and-white photos, stick with black-and-white; if you’re using retro images, stick with retro. Simple as that.

  1. Forget to proofread it.

The last one of the 5 Don’ts of Presentations is the easiest one. Although it is so obvious, we have all forgotten that in previous presentations. You put in so much work into a presentation and then you just forget to check it. All the work you put into a presentation can be thrown out the window if there are errors in formatting, grammar, or punctuation. It goes without saying: get someone competent to proofread your presentation.

One hint: the most frequent mistakes are inconsistencies in capitalization, commas and periods. And of course, typos are the number one.

Why is proofreading so critical? Because you audience will see every tiny mistake. After seeing millions of print and TV ads, presentations and so on, your audience will register the slightest misstep. Even if they laugh about it, your credibility will crumble like a house of cards.

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