N is for Never

Sections of this topic

    As presenters, it is almost always wise to take a positive approach. Stress solutions when reporting on problems. Say what you will do, not what you won’t. Focus on supporting evidence, not concerns or doubts. But notice I said, “Almost always.” You knew there had to be a few exceptions to the rule, didn’t you? Here they are,

    Three things you should never do in a presentation:

    1. Ad-lib your opening and closing. The first minute and the last are so important you should script them. Or at least think them through carefully. Say them out loud two or three times to get a feel for how they flow. Or test them on a small group first. Or your cat.

    2. Apologize. You may not consider yourself the supreme subject matter expert or maybe not even the best person to give the presentation (your boss asked you to fill in at the last minute) but resist the impulse to apologize before you even begin, or anytime. Unless you step on someone’s toes, or otherwise hurt someone, then by all means apologize!

    3. Overload the audience. We love our loaded baked potatoes, but those overstuffed presentations are another matter. Keep it lean, and mean, and leave them wanting a little more. So much better than having too much content and stuffing it in. Ugh! As you prepare your talk, consider ways to keep it lean while setting aside details you can delve into if time permits or questions arise. Deliberately create a presentation that uses 75-80% of your allotted time, preserving unhurried time for questions. If you should happen to finish a few minutes early, you will probably look like a hero to your busy audience.

    In addition to avoiding these behaviors, N is for never letting anything get between you and your audience.

    Barriers to avoid:

    Don’t block the view. Don’t use a lectern unless you absolutely must. Don’t sit at a table to use the computer; instead, use a remote presenter so you can get closer to the audience. Don’t turn to the slides, but keep your body facing the audience as much as you can.

    Don’t hide your face. Push your hair away from your face. Keep beards and mustaches trimmed up neatly. If you wear glasses, choose those with lighter frames and untinted lenses.

    Don’t allow distance. Don’t allow empty chairs in the front of the room. (I sometimes bribe audiences to sit up front.) In a long, narrow room, try to move to the side or walk to the back of the room from time to time. On stage, move toward the front or down onto the floor if you can.

    Definitely, think and act in the most positive way you can. But never let these don’ts come between you and your audience.