5 common presentation mistakes and how to avoid them

Luc Meulewaeter

Published by Luc Meulewaeter on September 20, 2017

Learning from common presentation mistakes.

Starting on a weak note. Flooding your customer with slides. Reading straight off a slide deck. These are just a few of the most common presentation mistakes that all of us have witnessed or made (in the worst case). But we can all learn from our own and other people’s mistakes. So let’s dive deeper into the most common presentation mistakes, and how to avoid them). It’s is an exercise well worth doing.

Mistake #1: Starting on a weak note.

It happens to all of us. We get stuck in a traffic jam and arrive late in the meeting. Orwe have trouble connecting our laptop to the meeting room beamer. We forget to bring the handouts that took so much time to prepare. Or we’re just not in good shape. Whatever: starting your presentation on a weak note by apologizing for everything that went wrong, is not a good idea. It will make you look like a victim. And honestly, who wants to do business with a victim?

What you should do instead is get over yourself. Let your audience understand you’re cool under pressure. Show that playing the victim role is not part of your professional attitude. In short: make a good impression, even if you’re feeling sick or tired.

Tip #1

An even better approach is to eliminate as many risks as you can. Why not take your private crowdbeamer with you when visiting customers? No more trouble connecting your laptop to a beamer (if there’s one available, at least). No more missing handouts. And while you are presenting, your customer can create a personal set of digital handouts – ready to be used once the meeting is over.

Mistake #2: Flooding your customer with slides.

Haven’t we all heard the phrase quoted by sales consultant Colleen Francis in her post about common presentation mistakes? “I have 15 minutes left, and I’m only through 20 of my 58 PowerPoint slides, so I’m going to be going through this last bit a little fast” If you ever need to use that phrase, the mistake has been made long before. Remember that your presentation is not about the slides that you prepared. It’s all about addressing the needs of your customer.

What you should do instead is focus entirely on your customer’s needs when preparing your presentation. That’s where you make or break it. And, quoting Colleen Francis one more time, “if these needs are wrapped up in the first slide and you only discuss this one point for an hour, then you’ve done your job.”

Tip #2

When you prepare for a 1-hour meeting with your customer, try to avoid the ‘Death by PowerPoint’. Stick to the 10-20-30 rule for slideshows :

  • your presentation shouldn’t contain more than 10 slides,
  • it should last no more than 20 minutes,
  • and you should use a font size of no less than 30 points.

That leaves plenty of time to listen to your customer, and to turn your presentation into a conversation. In addition to creating a short presentation, make sure to prepare enough questions that help trigger interaction with your customer during the meeting.

Mistake #3: Reading straight off your slide deck.

One of the most common presentation mistakes that people make is reading straight off a slide deck. You should never ever do that. Customers can read your slide deck for themselves. If you read it for them, they will probably be bored. And they’ll get a feeling they are wasting valuable time.

What you should do instead is provide your perspective on the information in the slide deck. First of all, make sure to build a short and attractively designed slide deck. Only include facts, figures, and benefits that are relevant to your customer. Only include elements that help trigger a discussion. Engaging presentations are always about interaction. So that should be your primary objective for any customer presentation. If not, why would you even be needed during the meeting?

Tip #3

In addition to sticking to the 10-20-30 rule for slideshows, you should seriously consider Aaron Weyenberg’s advice “Think about your slides last”. Aaron is TED’s in-house Keynote expert. What he’s saying is that building your slide deck should be the final step in preparing your presentation. What you should start with instead is focusing on the key message you want to communicate to your customer and developing a list of points that support this message. Next step is to check and double-check all of this with your peers. Only then you should start thinking about your slides.

Stretching the truth: it may be a no-brainer, but it is a vital mistake of any interaction with customers.

Mistake #4: Stretching the truth.

It may be a no-brainer, but it is a vital element of any interaction with customers. Don’t tell stories that you heard somewhere else or that you saw on the Internet. Never make up customer references. People do business with people they like. Compromising your credibility does not fit into that picture.

What you should do instead is spend sufficient time upfront to include real-life examples and customer testimonials that convince your customer to purchase your products or services. And try to be as specific as possible when doing that. That probably requires you to build a limited set of reference examples from which you can choose, depending on the customer you will be meeting.

Tip #4

A short video can be a great way to provide a credible and convincing customer testimonial. It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time to produce because it needn’t be technically perfect. It should feel real, natural and convincing in the first place. And if you’re using crowdbeamer to share a video testimonial during your meeting, your customer will be able to record it on a laptop, tablet or smartphone using the crowdbeamer app. That makes it easy to share your video testimonial with other employees after the meeting. And it extends your audience far beyond the people that you met.

Avoiding eye contact during your presentation demonstrates a lack of confidence.

Mistake #5: Avoiding eye contact.

Avoiding eye contact during your presentation demonstrates a lack of confidence. It is one of the most common presentation mistakes that people make. Especially when you’re also looking back to the meeting room display to read straight off your slide deck, this starts to look bad.

What you should do instead is involve everybody present in the meeting room. People are not designed to listen. Instead, you should focus on gripping the attention of your customer during your presentation. Tap into your customer’s emotions by telling a story that is easy to remember. And while you do that, don’t forget to ask questions. Questions trigger dialogue and engage people.

Tip #5

It’s amazing how crowdbeamer can help you engage people, transforming how your customer reacts during the meeting. Because crowdbeamer delivers your presentation directly to your customer’s laptop or tablet, there’s no need for you to look back to the meeting room display. Instead, you can focus on making eye contact with everybody in the meeting room. You can focus on creating the personal connection that is needed to drive interaction.

Ending on a strong note: your experience.

So here are my questions to you: How do these tips work for you? What do you do to avoid some of the most common presentation problems? I’m eager to read your feedback.

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