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Presentations Gone Wrong: Five Rules for Avoiding a Really Bad Presentation

by Pooja Lohana  |  
October 15, 2014
  |  6,132 views

Picture this: You're about to give the most important presentation of your life; if you convince the audience and gain their approval, you could change your business forever.

You take a deep breath and open your PowerPoint file. You've spend nights working on it. You've added tons of slides, and you've squeezed text onto each slide to make sure nothing's missed.

Yet, as soon as you start "reading" from the screen to the audience, their eyes glaze over. You keep going, pretending to be excited about your material. Oh Lord, they seem bored. Deep down, you know you've lost them already.

What gives?

I've sat through many a presentation by presenters who conveniently forgot that a tool (such as PowerPoint) is just a medium to re-enforce what they have to say. Instead, the speaker took a backseat and put the slides center-stage. A classic example of a presentation gone wrong.


Another common mistake is to read the slides word for word. Look, if you have to read them, you're too focused on your tool and not on your message. Congratulations, you're now a reader, not a presenter.

The problem here is you're making things that don't matter, matter. You, the presenter, are more important than your slides.

Let's now look at five rules for avoiding a really bad presentation.


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Pooja Lohana simplifies content marketing for her clients so they can get found online, make more sales, and live the Un-9-5 life. She is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. Reach her at Damn Fine Writing.

LinkedIn: Pooja L

Twitter: @WellPaidWriters

Google+: Pooja L

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  • by Jim Greenway Wed Oct 15, 2014 via web

    As a public speaker, I totally agree with this concept. You and I must have been in the same Seth Godin presentation when he mentioned the six word rule regarding slides. It makes the difference between a good presentation, and a really good speaker. Thanks for sharing.

  • by Janice Dottin Wed Oct 15, 2014 via web

    There are hours of my life that I'll never get back, lost to bad presentations. Your suggestions are terrific! One of my pet peeves is presenters who believe that all of their data (spreadsheet, chart or report) has to appear on a single slide. It's better to extract a few key data points and highlight them. If your audience needs to see all of the detail, include the full document with the handouts, not in the slides. Oh, and handouts of any kind should be distributed AFTER the presentation, unless you want your audience to spend its time reading instead of listening to you. Great piece!

  • by dom Wed Oct 15, 2014 via web

    #6... is it 10-20-30 or 10-30-30? [feel free to delete when edit is made; couldn't connect to author, thx]

  • by John Eustace Wed Oct 15, 2014 via web

    I am going to forward this to everyone who is preparing their presentation for my networking group.
    My most effective slide (I only have one) is simply a picture of me giving a presentation with my name superimposed on it!
    This keeps the audience focused on what I am saying, there are no distractions and I can be certain a technical glitch never impacts my presentation.
    PowerPoint is useful only when you have complex things to illustrate. I recommend no bullet points and if possible no slides at all!

  • by Rich Gibbs Thu Oct 16, 2014 via web

    Very clearly described and an excellent article for any would-be presenter. I learned some years ago that it's my opportunity to tell my audience why my subject is great. Think of it like this. You are centre stage, engaging an audience like an actor on a stage. People want to enjoy the experience of watching and listening to you. So make it a piece of theatre. One of my best presentations was a 20-min slot in a 3-hour pitch to a new client. The first half was as dull as you can imagine. Then is was my turn. I told my audience what my subject was about and then told my team to turn the presentation off. My CEO looked at me and her jaw hit the floor. But in the next 20-mins I spoke to the audience, I engaged with them, I asked them questions, I illustrated my points by enlisting the help of the team. Upon sitting down, the key client looked at me, smiled and nodded. We won the pitch. I hope I helped in some way
    Presentations are about you, feel it, embrace it, enjoy it, and maybe, your audience will too.

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