Presenters -7 things your audience won’t forgive you for

If you are a presenter or public speaker, you can be certain that your audience want you to help them. They want you to feel comfortable and confident in their presence so that they may relax and feel the same. If you have something of value to say that will make a difference to their personal or professional lives they will listen to you intently.

There are, however, certain things your audience won’t forgive you for.

1. Lack of preparation

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius

It’s always abundantly clear whether a presenter has done their homework and made the effort to learn as much as possible as they can about their audience in advance. Who they really are, what they care about, what keeps them awake at night, how much they already know and what they really need.

It really doesn’t matter whether you are updating your team, making a sales pitch, reporting to the board or giving a conference keynote you always have to prepare.

If you aren’t fully and properly prepared then you can expect this question from your audience.

‘So what?’

The presenter who hasn’t fully and effectively prepared, will always have their audience asking themselves that dreaded question in their own minds.

‘So what’; it is always quickly followed by:

‘Why are you telling me this?

‘Why does it matter?’

‘Why should I care?’

If your audience find themselves asking those questions they’ll never forgive you.

2. Wasting their time

“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.”

Jimmy Wales

Have you ever attended a presentation where the speaker bombarded you with information that:

– You already knew

– You could easily find yourself through Google

– Was obvious to you

– Was old news to you

The bottom line is, don’t waste their time. They won’t thank you for it and most wont forgive you either.

Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘wait a minute, everything is on Google so that means I never get to speak’.

That may be so but your job is not to tell them what they can read for themselves; it’s to bring the information to life, add perspective and insight.

If they can ‘Google’ it for themselves then just send them the link.

3. Looking uncomfortable

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

Dale Carnegie

If you’re visibly very uncomfortable when presenting, you can be quite certain that your audience will be too.

I don’t mean being nervous. You’re allowed to be nervous, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it shows you’re alive and that you care. Where your audience will get uncomfortable is where you are a jabbering, stuttering wreck of a human being.

What’s the best way to get comfortable?

Well funnily enough, preparation is the key. Once you’ve prepared thoroughly the next step is to practice just as thoroughly. That doesn’t mean memorize what you have to say. It means practicing your presentation to the point that you are completely comfortable with your message.

4. Your ego

“I can’t stand being around anal people, especially anal people with big egos.”

Laura Prepon

Perhaps you’ve come across one or two in your time; if you have you’ll remember them.

An audience will never forgive a presenter who calls them together to listen to how wonderful they are.

It’s called an ego trip

Make your presentation exclusively about your audience and leave yourself out of it.

5. A lack of commitment

“If it was something that I really committed myself to, I don’t think there’s anything that could stop me becoming President of the United States.”

Will Smith

If you’re not totally committed to the ideas and information you’re presenting, rest assured that your audience won’t be either. Worse still, they will resent the fact that you are wasting their precious time. Trying to persuade an audience to take on board an idea you are not convinced about yourself is futile.

Some presentation coaches will simply tell you to ‘fake it until you make it’.

The Mindful Presenters philosophy is, just don’t do it.

If you find yourself in a position where you really have to present, because your boss told you that you must, or it’s just a part of your job then do yourself a life changing favour and find a new job; preferably one where you are committed to the things you need to speak about.

It may sound like a surprising issue to write about but the reality is that it exists. Everyday somewhere in the world someone is presenting information to people that they really don’t believe in themselves.

You owe it to your audience to be committed to your message

6. Being boring

“Dead or alive, interesting people are interesting people”

Noel Riley Fitch

Have you ever sat through a really boring presentation?

I don’t think I’ve ever met a single living soul that hasn’t.

It happens every day in just about every organisation in the world;it’s painful.

Your audience won’t forgive you for presenting something to them which is neither of interest to them or is just not very interesting. Whatever you do, make sure it’s stimulating, engaging and captures their interest and curiosity.

There is no such thing as a boring product or service, only boring presenters.

If you don’t believe that and can’t find a way to make your presentation interesting send them a short email instead.

Remember though, just because it’s interesting to you doesn’t mean you have the right to impose it on others.

7. Reading your slides

“The only thing that ever consoles man for the stupid things he does is the praise he always gives himself for doing them.”

Oscar Wilde

If you have so much information on a slide that either you or your audience has to read it then you shouldn’t be presenting it on a slide in the first place.

Email it to them and tell them to give you a call if they have any questions. If you prefer to discuss it in person, take it as a handout to discuss in a meeting. Give everyone a copy, allow them plently of time to read it and then discuss it; don’t present it.

It’s incredibly surprising how many presentations we still see where the presenter stands with their back to the audience and reads their own slide.

It really is the icing on the cake of unforgivable.

Presenting to any audience regardless of size, status or subject is an enormous privilege and one that shout be treated with the utmost respect.

You only have to do these seven things to earn that respect:

– Be prepared

– Respect and value their time

– Be comfortable

– Make it all about them not you

– Be committed

– Make it interesting

– Don’t read slides

They won’t forgive you if you don’t do them.

If you are presenting soon and need a little help with these needs:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and public speaking coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of flickr.com

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.