If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to picture my audience in their underwear, I would be rich. But no matter how many times I try to picture my audience in their underwear it never seems to lower my anxiety level. In fact, I think it actually ends up making me more uncomfortable. Yet still, the saying lives on.
Well, today is the day when we lay some of these old myths to rest and replace them with the truth. Here are the top 3 presentation myths that I hear over and over again and the truth behind them.
Practice makes perfect.
Though practice is extremely important to every presentation, I think this statement would be more accurate if instead of “practice makes perfect” it went like this, “practice makes permanent and perfect practice makes perfect.” No matter how many times you practice, if you don’t practice the right way all you are doing is cementing bad habits.
That is why when it comes to my practice, I take the time to ensure I am doing it the right way. This may require you to record yourself, or have someone watch and critique you. It might feel awkward at first, but I promise it is worth it. The last thing you want is to find yourself delivering a presentation that is riddled with bad habits and nervous ticks in spite of all your preparation.
The more content on your slides the better.
I see and hear it all the time. Presenters loading their slides with as many words as they can fit in an attempt to further communicate what they are saying. The slide pops up and immediately they begin to read the exact wording that is listed on the slide. I have sat in many audiences where this took place and each time, I immediately began to ask why I couldn’t just read this on my own.
The reality is that if I’m asking the question, so is everyone else. We live in an extremely busy culture; people don’t have time to waste listening to you reading them your content. Instead, limit what is represented on the slide so that you can deliver that information verbally. What this will do is make your audience feel like they are getting their money’s worth as they listen to you, the expert.
The time limit is just a suggestion.
One time I fell prey to this myth in the worst of ways. I was speaking in front of a room of mixed gender and various ages and had not taken the time to do my homework. Minutes before walking on stage I asked the host how long I had, he turned to me and said you have 20 minutes. For some reason, what I heard was “you have 20ish minutes.” I went up delivered my content and 25 minutes later I walked off stage feeling like I had nailed it. I was met by an angry host who sternly informed me I had gone 5 minutes over. What I didn’t realize was that by going 5 minutes over I had delayed the next event and the entire conference was now off schedule. Needless to say, at that moment I felt like the biggest failure.
When you are invited to speak, start with the time limit and prepare around that. If the clock hits zero and you are not done wrap up as quickly as you can even if it means you cut something because you owe it to your audience to value their time.
Presentation myths are easy to misidentify as helpful hints; however, they can often cause mistakes that not only hurt the presenter’s one presentation but also their reputation. Understanding the difference between truth and myth will empower you to deliver the best presentation possible while engaging your audience and wowing your clients.
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