The purpose of any presentation is to create understanding for the audience.
If you don’t make your facts understandable you are essentially expecting your audience to:
- take on board a catalogue of data;
- assimilate the data immediately with no real context;
- reach the same conclusion you have reached.
( and all in 20 minutes and at the moment all over a zoom call )
The truth is the onus is never on the audience, it’s always on the speaker to keep the listener engaged and ensure they understand the data.
You must know your audience and how they will interpret what you are saying. Something that is incredibly natural and every day to you may not be to them. You must speak to your audience in a language they can understand.
To ensure engagement throughout your presentation you must avoid the 3 Presentation Pitfalls below;
- Overloading the audience with too much data
Too often in presentations audiences are overloaded with too many facts and details.
This is done for many reasons. The most common are the presenter-
- Thinks this is the best way to give their audience value for money
- Feels all the information is important
- Is unable to choose what to take out and leave in so they present everything and hope the audience gets something
- Is using the data as a crutch to fill time or showcase their knowledge and expertise
- Is doing what everyone else in their company is doing
Ultimately though the main reason for data overloading is the presenter hasn’t focused enough on the audience and thought about what they actually need and want to hear in advance.
- Using PowerPoint the wrong way
PowerPoint is a very powerful visual aid when used correctly. It really is. Unfortunately many presenters do not use it as a visual aid, instead they use it as-
- Their notes
- A crutch
- A substitute for preparation
- The handout (given before, during or after the talk)
- The deck that gets circulated to the people that weren’t at the talk
- Using too much industry jargon
The best presenters speak in plain English.
“Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction.
Professor Robert Eagleso
To be understood you have to stop:
- using concepts, acronyms and jargon without explanation;
- assuming levels of understanding that are simply not there;
- bombarding the audience with too many numbers with no context for those numbers;
- using ten sentences to say what could be said in two;
- talking about what you are going to talk about instead of just talking about it. You need to get to the point.
Facts are, of course, critical but the reality is they take time to penetrate the brain.
A mistake many presenters make is assuming their colleagues, customers or clients understand the everyday jargon they use. In most instances, this is not the case and can result in serious miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Don’t make the mistake of being over-confident in your assumptions about your audience’s level of understanding. There is a very good chance you’re mistaken in assuming understanding that simply isn’t there.