By Diane DiResta
Whenever you’re presenting, you’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes you make on the public speaking platform result from commonly held myths. At other times, mistakes might stem from ignorance or inexperience. Whatever the case, here are some of the most common mistakes speakers make.
1. Black and White
Slides and handouts that are black and white look drab and boring. Be a color convert. Color coding a bar chart or line graph helps the viewer understand the numbers. Color adds dramatic effect as well and creates associations in the minds of the audience.
2. Complete Sentences
Use bullet points or key words. Long sentences will require you and the audience to read your slide. You will sacrifice your credibility if you have to read and the audience will ignore you while they scan ahead. The first step is to comb each sentence and eliminate articles such as the, an, a, etc. Focus on the concept, not the words.
3. Too Busy
Remember the K.I.S.S. formula. Keep it simple, stupid or keep it short and simple. Busy slides and handouts will distract and confuse the audience. Use lots of white space and apply the 6X6 Rule. No more than 6 words on a line. No more than 6 lines on a slide.
4. Too Many Slides
Do you compete with your slides? You don’t want to become Vanna White who turns over the numbers. You are the most important visual aid. Your slides and handouts are an aid to support your message. Here’s a formula to keep you on track. For a 25 minute presentation do not exceed 20 slides. That’s less than one per minute.
5. Too Many Fonts
Variety is good for speaking but not when choosing fonts for a presentation. Limit yourself to one or two fonts. Too many fonts will create a disjointed image. One option is to use a serif-type font for the titles (Times Roman) and a sans serif font for the bullets (Arial).
6. Small Typeface
If you have to squint to read the slide, the font is probably too small. Big is better. The print should be large enough to be seen in the back row. When using a computer, try using 36 points for the title and 34 for the bullet points. That should project large enough for most audiences.
7. Talking to the Screen
This is one of the most common mistakes. When you talk to the screen, you lose the connection with the audience. And the relationship is everything. Reference the screen but keep eye contact with the audience by applying the Touch-Turn-Talk technique. Touch the screen with your eyes and silently read, turn your head toward the audience, and talk the point to one person, eye-to-eye. Finish your last word on a person, then go back and look at the next point.
8. Talking While Changing the Slide
People are afraid of silence so they talk while they change their slides. This creates an impression of nervousness. Instead, pause while changing your slide, state your transition or segue and make your next point.
9. No Graphics
Why do business presenters insist on only text? It is an uphill battle to convince some presenters to use graphics. We are not speaking of Micky Mouse clip art. Symbols such as check marks, dollar signs, and arrows can save space and help the audience retain the message. Graphs and flow charts make numbers and complex material concrete. They are also more interesting than a page of text. The mind thinks in pictures, not words! If you want people to remember your message, use graphics.
Misspellings can detract from your professionalism and distract the audience. Spell check and proof every handout and slide. Ask an objective person to check for errors. You may miss something because you’re too close to it.