8 Simple Ways To Screw Up A Presentation

Woman Presenting at a screen in the Office

by Alan Matthews

Delivering a really effective presentation is often as much about avoiding the “wrong” things as it is about doing the “right” things.


I still see even experienced speakers and presenters doing basic things which undermine their impact and their credibility. In fact, they do things which make them look like complete amateurs.

Here are just a few of the ways in which you can easily mess up your next presentation.

  1. Don’t bother to arrive early to check the room layout, the materials, the sound system, the slide projector. Just assume these things will be where you want them when you need them and that you won’t need any time to practise with them.
  2. Spend a good chunk of time at the start of the presentation talking about yourself, explaining who you are, what you do, why you’re qualified to talk about this subject. Don’t forget to add how pleased you are to be there. Your audience will love all this, they’re fascinated to learn more about you.
  3. Alternatively, go for the “I’m sorry for everything” opening. Tell people how little time you had to prepare the talk, how surprised you are to have been asked, how it’s not really your field, how sorry you are about the fact that it will probably be a bit dull or disorganised. This is always easier than actually doing the work to prepare it properly and audiences will respect your honesty.
  4. Assume that everyone in the room knows exactly what you’re going to talk about and why it matters to them. After all, they are there, aren’t they? No need to explain what they will learn or what value it will have for them, just crack on with all that great content and don’t worry about engaging them or motivating them to listen.
  5. Don’t keep an eye on the time, just keep going until someone tells you they’re closing the building, then rush through all the material you haven’t covered. If people are interested enough, they’ll make the effort to keep up and they certainly won’t mind if they have to stay half an hour longer than they expected.
  6. Prepare lots of slides with nothing but bullet points (and give them to people as handouts before you start so they can read them as well). Everyone loves bullet points and they show just how much effort you’ve put into preparing the talk.
  7. Leave your slides up even after you’ve finished talking about them and moved onto another point. It will help people to remember what you said a few minutes ago and no-one will get confused unless they’re really poor at multi-tasking, in which case it’s their own fault.
  8. Choose a really lame ending for your presentation, such as,”That’s about it, then” or,”Well, that’s me finished”. Or, of course, you can go with the timeless classic, “So, any questions?” That’s always popular. Whatever you do, don’t repeat your key message (assuming you had one), let people work it out for themselves – why should you do all the work?

About the author

Alan Matthews is the author of How To Design And Deliver Great Training and The Successful Presenter’s Handbook, available from Amazon. You can get his free report, “8 Steps To Excellence – the 8 key habits that make top trainers and presenters stand out” from the website at [http://www.alanmatthewstraining.com] You will also find lots of articles and videos to help you become an outstanding trainer or presenter.