Folk who have to speak in public, whether it is in front of their own familiar team – or in front of an arena of strangers, tend to worry about the same thing. ‘What if I make a mistake?’
If it is a momentary blip, forgetting what you need to say next for instance, or perhaps a stumbled word tripped over in the heat of the battle, it will almost certainly be forgiven by your audience, because feeling embarrassed on behalf of someone else is almost as awful as feeling embarrassed by your own actions. So contrary to many public speakers’ inner thoughts, your audience is willing you to succeed.
However, there are certain mistakes that presenters should avoid at all costs because they annoy or frustrate those trying to pay attention. These boo-boos are known collectively as The Unforgiven.
Here are a few of the best … or worst … examples, depending on your point of view:
Boo-boo: Death by Power-Point – too many slides; overly cluttered slides; lengthy sentences; multiple, overlapping graphics … aagghh!
Antidote: Edit ruthlessly and remember ‘less is more’
Boo-boo: N.E.Y.A.*** even if you do think your audience should know what you mean
Boo-boo: At the risk of sounding like Donald Tusk, there is a special place in hell for presenters who copy-and-paste a complex graph or flowchart onto a slide, scatter it with teensy font and other inexplicable hieroglyphics, then disingenuously remark ”I know you can’t see this but ….”
Antidote: Why have you put it up there then? Put anything complex on hard copy handouts instead and distribute them so those who need an ounce of ocular assistance can whip out their reading specs and scrutinise your info without squinting
Boo-boo: Reading from dog-eared, floppy, scruffy notes, especially when holding them in front of the face – or rustling them so furiously it sounds like a percussion accompaniment
Antidote: Presenters should note some short bullet point reminders only, onto one side of small cue cards – and on becoming more confident with the material, dispense with the cards and memorise the key points of the speech, expanding on them conversationally
***Never Explaining Your Acronyms
Antidote: Always explain your acronym or short-form at least once. Many acronyms have more than one meaning, even within the same organisation – and even if not, it is unfair to expect your audience to be struggling to follow your shorthand
Have you committed any of ‘The Unforgiven’ in your presentations lately? You have? Don’t beat yourself up too much – but do resolve to amend them for the future.