6 Habits of Stinky Presentations

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presentation-sleeping-300x198Every Leader has to present on some topic on a regular basis.

But, my gosh.

Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder how good leaders can be such ineffective speakers.  When I prefer to provide a blood transfusion over listening to another painful 20 minutes of a presentation, something must be wrong.

The fact: Great presenters are effective because they’ve worked hard on the right stuff.

Please notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that they’ve been speaking for a long time makes them effective. Sometimes time is a great deception – just because we’ve done something for a long time doesn’t mean we’re good at it.

Likely, we’ve done the same poor presentation habits for years.  There are some people who are naturally gifted at speaking, but most of us have to work really hard at it.

Here are 6 Habits of Stinky Presentations:

Habit 1: You have 17  points to cover. (Instead, have a clear goal for your presentation).

The headline of this post rips off Stephen Covey, and one of the most effective habits of presentations is inspired by him: “Begin with the end in mind.” You need one goal for what you want your audience to know, feel or do immediately after the presentation.

Here’s a tip: Summarize your goal in one declarative sentence. If it’s a run-on sentence, it’s time to revise.  Here’s my question for you: What’s the One Thing you want them to know, and what’s the One Thing you want them to Do.

Habit 2:  Have over 40+ powerpoint slides with more than 5 lines of text on each slide.

Seriously, just email the slide deck instead.   Because after 5 minutes,  I won’t be paying attention (and neither will anyone else).  People will start reading your slides rather than listening to the message you’re communicating.

Instead, use slides minimally  – just to communicate a visual or image ( or quote).  The rule of thumb is to use p to 4 lines of text only.

Habit 3: Don’t Prepare or revise (Instead, Prepare early and often.)

As soon as you know you will speak somewhere, it is time to start preparing.  But if you think preparation means opening PowerPoint or Word, think again.

Nancy Duarte recommends you storyboard your speech on Post-It notes. Brainstorm your points and sub-points, and write them on Post-Its. Then put them on a wall so you can easily reorganize your speech or toss the points that don’t fit your goal into the recycling bin.

You need to start this process early. Speech preparation is an iterative process.

Habit 4: Don’t get Personal or share stories   (instead, find stories everywhere.)

Audiences love stories. They spice up bland, boring, data-driven presentations. Stories engage audience members and help them relate the content to their lives.  Successful speakers always look for stories, and they know stories don’t have to be extraordinary. The best ones come from ordinary experiences.

Stories are everywhere, and successful speakers always look for them.

Habit 5:  Talk AT your audience   (Instead, Involve your audience).

Audience members want interaction during presentations. They want to feel involved. Ask them questions that make them think.  Use the word “you” a lot. Use your stories to relate to their worlds. No matter what your presentation topic, think strategically about how you can involve your audience more in your speech.

For the love of all good things, avoid the “me, me, me introduction.” No one cares about you. People care about how your information will serve them.

Habit 6: Speak beyond 45 minutes   (Instead, always respect the time limit.)

Rarely is someone good enough to speak beyond 45 minutes in any one setting (unless facilitating a workshop). Stop going over the time limit. It’s disrespectful of your audience’s time and attention. Aim to end early when as prepare your speech. That way if there are questions during the presentation, you have time to answer them and still end on time.

Bonus Habit: Practice your bootie off.

A clear goal + solid preparation + practice = presentation success.   You need to practice your presentation. Practice it out loud, in the car, on a boat or in a moat. Visualize your speech. Make time to practice and know you can’t wing it.

Successful speakers know speaking is hard work. There’s no shortcut to success. Get out there and speak. Share your message. Speak as often as you can.



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