Anyone who’s ever had to make a presentation will tell you that, most often, it’s not a walk in the park. There are many aspects you need to take into consideration, as well as literal lists of things you should and shouldn’t do to deliver a convincing performance and wow your audience.

In this article, we will focus on the most common presentation mistakes you need to keep in mind and what to do instead. Whether you’ll be presenting in front of your classmates or a room full of demanding executives, you need to have certain presentation skills and a good grasp of the difference between a good presentation and a great one. Stay clear of the mistakes we’ll mention, and you’ll never deliver a bad presentation ever again.

Sloppy research

If you think back to your school years, you will probably remember all those times when you or a colleague of yours had to write an essay or make a presentation on a topic they weren’t particularly interested in. If you can recall such situations, you will no doubt also remember that such a disconnect from the main point of the assignment has a direct impact on the delivery and the overall quality of work.

Still, even if you’re not an expert on the topic, you should do your due diligence and put effort into researching the subject matter. The research itself will help you tremendously by allowing you to carry a presentation through your knowledge alone and answer questions from your audience with confidence.

The more you show that you put effort into the presentation, the more likely it is that your audience will treat you with respect and heed your words.

Presentation slides that need decluttering

One of the most common presentation mistakes, by far, is throwing lots of information on every slide and overwhelming the audience. It’s especially often seen among younger high school students and only slightly less at university campuses.

These teenagers and young adults operate on the notion that presentation must be, first and foremost, informative, and while they’re unto something, they’re also overdoing it. A successful presentation will give the audience specific, key information on the slide while you will then fill in the blanks.

In this instance, you should always stick to the rule that it’s better to show too little on presentation slides too much. If the slide is somewhat lacking, you can always explain everything else on your own, whereas when there’s too much of it, it might become too chaotic, and the pacing of the presentation will be off.

Not double-checking all the files

First impressions matter, and what worse way to make a first impression than to struggle with technology because your file either doesn’t load or isn’t there at all in the first place?

It still happens to this day from time to time, and while sometimes all it will do is cause a few side glances or eye-rolls, it can also put your professionalism into question.

The best you can do to make sure you don’t commit that mistake is to double-check every file you intend to use in your presentation and create at least another copy in another format. Anticipate technological issues and make sure that no matter what issues arise, you will still be ready to give a presentation.

Not connecting with the audience

One thing that can make or break your presentation is the dynamic between you and the audience and how you approach it. Misjudge this relationship or read the room wrong, and you will quickly lose either their interest or favour. 

Knowing who your audience is, what they want, and what they require are things that every presenter needs to ask themselves before the big day. Are they friendly, and perhaps you can allow some sort of banter, or perhaps what matters most are the cold, hard facts and a non-nonsense attitude? If you’ve got a good grasp on who you’re working with, you will have already made a big step in securing the high quality of a presentation.

Reading instead of presenting

Another common presentation mistake seen predominantly among younger people, including college students, is reading notes instead of actually presenting.

Eye contact is important no matter what situation you are in and who you’s in front of you. Strong eye contact indicates confidence but also authority and a certain level of calmness. If you constantly look down to read your notes or literally stay glued to what you’ve written on a card or the slide, you’ll lose your audience very quickly. What they’ll see is a lack of effort.

The only thing you can do is to be able to add something from yourself to what’s already on the PowerPoint presentation behind you. Go through it a bunch of times, write down some notes or even a complete outline, and then you should be able to meet your audience’s eyes and present all at the same time.

Going on for too long

Everyone values their own time and, at the same time, doesn’t enjoy it when someone overuses it. Boring your audience to sleep will not get you any favours, and it’s a surefire way to make them quickly forget it. You want to keep your audience engaged, and a presentation that’s too long, even if it includes active participation from the audience, might not work in your favour.

Best presentations are short and to the point, and not only stick to the time limit but often finish before the alarm goes off. The remaining time can be used to discuss the presentation, answer questions, or simply end a meeting earlier.

To sum up

A lot of work goes into creating a good presentation, and if you avoid any of the aforementioned common presentation mistakes, you will surely deliver a convincing performance.

Always remember to understand who your audience is, do not forget that the presentation is more about you and not the slideshow, and stick to the time limit. Stick to those and other tips we mentioned while discussing common errors, and every presentation you attempt in the future will be a success.