Don't look at your watch while speaking.

Presentation Skills: Further Traps for Inexperienced Presenters to Avoid

There are a number of traps that inexperienced presenters can fall into when they first begin presenting. Any one of these traps can make your presentation look less professional than it otherwise would. In this article we will look at traps relating to keep track of time, airing commercials, sticking around after the presentation and being difficult to work with.

Trap 1: Looking at your watch

Although you do need to keep track of how you are progressing through your speech, be careful of how often you look at your watch. It can be helpful to have the watch on the podium rather than on your arm. The audience likes to believe that you are there for them and you that you are enjoying being there with them. If you constantly look at your watch, it makes it look as though you cannot wait to finish the talk and get away.

Trap 2: Airing commercials

There are subtle ways to make a pitch and then there are outright blatant extended pitches. People do not like to feel as if they have been lured into a room for you to give them a sales pitch. If you intend to pitch, do it with subtlety and only after you have given them some very valuable and helpful information for free. Be very tasteful and ensure any pitching you do is kept to a minimum.

If you are presenting at someone else’s conference, check with the conference organiser that it would be OK to pitch your business before you do. Otherwise you might find that you don’t get invited back to present again. Remember that sometimes the best pitch you can give is the quality of the presentation. If you put your name and your organisation on your slides… and then give the presentation of your life… people will follow through by ringing you. I have been surprised that they can ring you as much as 2 years after the presentation, but they still ring.

Trap 3: Running over time

Always always always finish on time. If you go over time, you are being disrespectful to the:

• audience and their time;

• chairperson and his or her time;

• conference organiser’s time; and

• speakers who are coming after you, as they will either have to cut their presentations short or start late. People appreciate you finishing on time or even 2 or 3 minutes early.

To help you finish on time:

• Work out how many slides you have;

• How long you will speak about each slide;

• Then divide your time between your slides (remembering that some slides won’t take as long and some will take longer); and

• Write the time you should be at each slide at the top right hand side on the notes page for each slide. This lets you know on the way through how you are going with time. If you find that you are in front, you can slow down and take a little extra time on some explanations. If you find that you are behind, start mentally calculating which bits of what you planned to talk about you will have to leave out.

Trap 4: Disappearing after the presentation

Audience members (and conference organisers) expect you to hang around for a few minutes after your presentation. When you stay after your presentation it allows:

• Audience members to ask in-depth questions it wasn’t appropriate to discuss during the presentation.

• Shy audience members to ask you a question.

• Both you and the audience members who may be interested in what you do to exchange details.

• You to thank the conference organiser for including you in the conference.

• You to meet other speakers who are speaking at about the event.

Trap 5: Being difficult to work with

A great way to build your reputation, career and business is by presenting. Conference organisers have to deal with a lot of presenters and they prefer to deal with ones who are easy to get along with, don’t make lots of demands and do a good job. If you are demanding and behave as though you deserve all the conference organiser’s attention, you will have to do a very outstanding job to ensure they ask you back again. Conference organisers would rather deal with someone pleasant who does a pretty good job than someone unpleasant who does a slightly better job.

Trap 6: Being disorganised

Ensure you have everything organised and structured well before you stand up to present. The worst case of disorganisation I have ever seen was a man who had just printed his speech minutes before standing up to speak. Half way through his presentation he said, “Gee if I had written this speech, I wouldn’t have said that.” It went over with the audience like a lead balloon.

One of the key things tips I can give you about being organised is to always take a back up copy of everything with you. You never know when you will need it. This can happen because:

• The conference organiser never got the copy you emailed weeks ago.

• The laptop you were planning to use won’t start.

• Your laptop won’t communicate with the conference organiser’s data projector.

• The conference organiser wishes to use his or her own laptop to save time between presentations.

• There was a problem with the files you previously sent through.

The extra effort to make a back up copy is well worth it when the alternative might be to stand in front of 200 people to give a presentation without visual aids. I hope that sharing these traps for the inexperienced presenter will help you to avoid some of the mistakes I have made over my many years of presenting. Best wishes with your future presentations.

If you ensure you have thought about the common traps we have shared with you before you start each presentation, your success will be much more certain. All that will be left is to prepare and enjoy what you are doing.

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Sandra Rodman B Com LLB LLM Master Results Coach, Master Performance Consultant and author of ‘Winning Presentation Skills’ shares the secrets she has used and teaches others to give Winning Presentations that help careers soar and businesses grow. More information and order link: www.winningpresentationskills.com

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