5 Surefire Ways To Ruin Your Presentations

Posted by Duane Cummings on 05/24/2016


Whether you’re presenting in a weekly meeting to co-workers, pitching a proposal to a potential client, or giving a keynote talk at a conference, the following are my top 5 ways to ruin your presentation.

Keep in mind it only takes one to unravel what might otherwise have been a fantastic presentation. There’s no doubt the list could be much longer…in fact I’d be grateful if you’d share your top 5 in the comments section below.

 #1 - Taking Credit For Someone Else’s Work

Many presenters make the mistake of using other people’s quotes, ideas, or content without giving proper credit to the original author or creator. For those that don’t remember learning about this in high school, it’s called plagiarism.

It’s always the presenters responsibility to conduct due diligence before putting together a presentation, and to ensure someone else’s intellectual property rights aren’t being infringed upon.

Not long ago, I came across a speaker who used the title, “RAVING FANS” as well as the content of Ken Blanchard’s amazing book in their presentation, without ever giving him credit.

The fact is the presenter would have still made a positive impact on the audience, regardless of where the idea originated. But, because they didn’t provide an appropriate acknowledgement, everything about that specific message got questioned by most of the attendees.

Give credit where due, and people will hopefully reference your work appropriately if they use it in their presentations.

#2 - Blaming Others

It happens to all of us, at one time or another something goes wrong. Maybe the organizers of your talk set up the room incorrectly, or the technical aspect of a presentation went awry. Regardless of who’s to blame, NEVER take the opportunity to point the finger at anyone but yourself---even if you have a clear opportunity to do so.

Take the high road and claim responsibility for the experience regardless of how awful it was. The attendees will almost always respect, appreciate, and forgive you for whatever happened. If fact, they will often rise up to champion you. But, if you begin to lay blame, you’ll lose them in a hurry.

Recently I was in the audience listening to a presenter who was using a PowerPoint presentation. Along with the slides, they had video, but unfortunately didn’t take the time to embed it.

So, as the video cued up, and everyone moved to the edge of their seats with anticipation, the screen displayed that nasty word, “BUFFERING.” Unfortunately, rather than taking responsibility, the presenter said loudly,

“Well, perhaps this isn’t a five star venue--- we can’t even get good reception in their main meeting room.”

For the rest of the presentation people whispered under their breath and rolled their eyes, and I can imagine the organizers weren’t very happy either. If only the presenter had taken responsibility, the outcome may have been different.

 #3 - Making Your Talk About “YOU”

Yes, the audience needs to learn a little about you, beyond the official introduction. But, what you share about yourself should only be for the benefit of your attendees.

If done correctly, you will hopefully create a good rapport, so they can better absorb and clearly comprehend your message.

Your personal touch in your introductory period should be congruent with the topic and support the message, and you should never share so much about your personal life, that the audience feels uncomfortable.

Last month, my wife and I listened to a keynote address, in which the speaker began by telling everyone in the audience that her lifelong dream was to sing and act in front of large audiences. She went on to say that she regularly works on her, “I’d like to thank the Academy” speech and held out hopes of one day making it in showbiz.

This went on for sometime, and then later as she closed out her presentation---rather than recapping the theme or main message, she performed a “One Person Show,” singing and dancing to all of her favorite movie scenes. Although she was talented and it was obviously fun to watch, it made the presentation about HER. She created a stage that fulfilled her needs, rather than those of the audience.

#4 - Stretching The Truth Or Telling A Lie

It’s a horrible moment when someone presents something that isn’t true. Too often the speaker just goes on without a care in the world, especially if it’s something they’ve said before.

But if you’re watching closely during a presentation and someone tells a fib or gets the facts wrong, you’ll see a wash of concern sweep over the crowd. People glance to their left and right, and make puzzling looks as if to say, “Did I just hear that right?” Sadly, once it happens the rest of what is said probably falls on deaf ears.

In fact, the audience will probably reach for their electronic devices and begin “Googling” you and what you said, before your next slide or sentence. And if they find you in the wrong, you may as well just stop speaking.

Regardless of whether it was an unintentional sharing of incorrect information, the taking of creative license, or an out and out lie, one misstep with the truth can ruin not only that presentation, but will surely damage your entire reputation.

#5 - Not Tailoring Your Presentation

One way people define great presenters is to witness someone who delivers the same content, but very differently when addressing a variety of audiences. Please don’t confuse this with changing the facts…no, no, no. This is more about learning to dance with your audience, and specifically to the music they want to hear.

For instance, great presenters do their homework and learn all they can about the audience before creating the presentation. Or, if they have something already prepared, they find ways to "tweak" it, so that the message is relevant and applicable to that specific group of people.

Don’t hope that your audience will adjust to you, go meet them in their seats and in a way that they won’t have to work to understand your message. Change your terminology, stay away from references that don’t resonate with certain ages or groups, and avoid industry specific acronyms that most of the audience won’t understand.

I recently heard a speaker say, 

“I’m the one they came to hear and there’s one of me, and hundreds of them…they need to live in my world, because it’s impossible for me to live in all of theirs.”

Final word of advice, "DON’T BE THAT PERSON." Instead, become the best presenter possible by staying humble, avoiding the 5 items listed above, and never stop learning and working on your craft. Here’s hoping your next presentation is amazing!!!

1 Comment

Johnd936 Says:
October 4th, 2017 at 6:43 am
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Duane Cummings