At the end of my session at a conference, one of the audience members came up to tell me about a bad session she had attended. She said, “The presenter vomited his content on the audience. It was awful. I would have walked out if I wasn’t sitting in the front row.” That’s pretty strong language! Of course, I had to ask for the details of what made her feel “vomited” on by the presenter.
Here are that presenter’s top four mistakes, as described by the audience member – and what you can do to avoid them:
Presenter Mistake #1: “The content was disorganized.”
Your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle or end. It sounds so simple, yet so many presenters fail to organize their material clearly. Follow the old adage, “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” It should be easy for the audience to follow you and understand how your points relate to each other and your overall message.
Presenter Mistake #2: “The slides were crowded and hard to read.”
If the audience has to struggle to read your slides, they will struggle to understand your presentation. Please, for the sake of your audience members’ eyesight, use large font (larger than you think you need to use) and only a few bullet points on each slide. If you find yourself saying, “I know some of you can’t read this…,” then your slides are too crowded. Or go one step better and use only high-quality photos or images (not cheesy clip art) and a few words in very large font. Or be radical and don’t use slides at all; remember, you are the message and the slides are just the visual aids.
Presenter Mistake #3: “He only used examples from one area, which wasn’t applicable to many in the audience.”
The first rule of presentations is to know your audience, and in this case, the presenter doesn’t seem to have done that. Be sure that some of your examples come from the industries or fields represented in the audience. For example, if you are speaking to an audience of accountants, avoid using examples only from sales. Or if you’re presenting to small business owners, don’t just use stories from the corporate world. To find relevant examples and stories, check out the industry websites, read the publications and talk to people in that field. If there is an attendee list, interview a few audience members ahead of time
Presenter Mistake #4: “He said he wanted to make it interactive, but there was no opportunity for interactivity.”
I’ve seen many presenters make this same mistake and the solution here is simple: don’t claim that you want your presentation to be interactive unless you really mean it and have planned for the interactivity with specific questions, exercises or activities. And just asking, “Is everyone with me?” does not count as being interactive – and anyway, it’s rare that anyone will speak up and say “no.”
If you avoid these four common presenter mistakes, you will be less likely to “vomit” your content on your audience!