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Top 10 Reasons Your Presentation Sucks

Most presentations stink. Big time. This post contains the 10 most common reasons they stink, along with quick advice to expunge the stench.

REQUEST: The more people who read this post, the fewer stinky presentations we'll ALL have to sit through. So here's what I want you to do.

Use the "email" box (above and to the left) to send this post to at least five colleagues. Hopefully, they'll do the same and we'll eradicate thousands of the horrible presentations throughout the business world.

Please, do this as a public service. Remember: the sanity you save could be your own.
CLICK HERE for the first reason your presentation stinks »

REASON #10: It is all data, no story!
  • Diagnosis: You presented scads of information without any context or meaning.
  • Why you did it: You wrongly assumed a presentation was the same thing as a lecture.
  • What resulted: The audience pulled out their Blackberries when you clicked your fifth slide.
  • How to fix it: Make your presentation tell a story, ideally with the audience as the heroes.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #9: Your slides are too fancy!
  • Diagnosis: You filled your slides with special effects and visual jim-cracks.
  • Why you did it: You were afraid that the audience would find you boring.
  • What resulted: Your audience watched the pretty pictures and missed what you were saying.
  • How to fix it: Use the minimum visuals that you need to tell the story.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #8: Your slide background is too busy!
  • Diagnosis: You used a background template that was busy and obtrusive.
  • Why you did it: You wrongly thought it would make your slides look more "professional."
  • What resulted: Your audience got headaches trying to see what was actually on each slide.
  • How to fix it: Use a simple, single color background. Always.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
hREASON #7: Your fonts are unreadable!
  • Diagnosis: You used fonts that were too fancy or too small or both.
  • Why you did it: The fonts looked great on your computer; the projector... not so much.
  • What resulted: The audience squinted and peered, and then gave up. Blackberry time!
  • How to fix it: Use large fonts in simple faces (like Ariel); avoid boldface, italics and UPPERCASE.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #6: Your graphics are too complex!
  • Diagnosis: You inserted giant, complicated graphics with lots of little details.
  • Why you did it: One picture is worth a thousand words, right? (Uh, wrong.)
  • What resulted: Your audience stared glassy-eyed, then pulled out their Blackberries.
  • How to fix it: Only include simple graphics; highlight the data point that's important.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #5: You are all opinion, no fact!
  • Diagnosis: You expressed all sorts of opinions without any supporting data.
  • Why you did it: Laziness. It's easy to claim "leadership"; it's harder to actually be a leader.
  • What resulted: Your credibility with the audience leaped right down the toilet.
  • How to fix it: Only state opinions that you can back up with quantifiable data.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #4: You speak fluent biz-blab!
  • Diagnosis: Your presentation was filled with tacky business buzzwords.
  • Why you did it: You wrongly thought the biz-blab made you sound "business-like."
  • What resulted: Your audience thought you were 1) pompous, 2) crazy, and/or 3) talking in tongues.
  • How to fix it: Just stop it. Cold turkey. Please.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #3: You drifted off topic!
  • Diagnosis: You included data and anecdotes that didn't reinforce your message.
  • Why you did it: You didn't bother to figure out what would really interest your audience.
  • What resulted: Your audience lost your train of thought and you lost credibility.
  • How to fix it: Only include material that's relevant to your overall message.
CLICK HERE for the next reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #2: It was too d**n long!
  • Diagnosis: You presented way more than anybody wanted to know.
  • Why you did it: You were "spraying and praying" that something that would pique their interest.
  • What resulted: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
  • How to fix it: Always make your presentation less than half as long as you think it should be.
CLICK HERE for the final reason your presentation stinks »
REASON #1: You read from your slides!
  • Diagnosis: You stood there like an idiot and read aloud what everyone could read for themselves.
  • Why you did it: You didn't know the material so you needed your slides as a memory-jog.
  • What resulted: By your third slide, your audience was ready to strangle you.
  • How to fix it: Use slides to reinforce your message rather than to outline your data points.
BTW, the above list is largely based upon a book by the Harvard psychology professor Stephen M. Kosslyn's book Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations (Oxford, 2007).

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post? Then you'll probably enjoy my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.
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