presenting dos and don'ts

Presentation do’s and don’ts: Funny Presenting Habits You Should Get Rid Of

This segment is dedicated to remind you of all the funny little presenting habits that you should get rid of immediately.

Don’t say all your words with the same volume!

 What should you do instead? 

Emphasise key words when presenting. Yes! It’s a great idea to emphasise key words when you present.

Emphasising key words helps your audience know what’s important and it helps them get a strong sense of your

 emotional objective or the ‘vibe’ you’re aiming to create. The words most people emphasise are called content

words and they are the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. As well as stressing key nouns and verbs you should

also look at stressing the ‘focus words’. Focus words are the keywords in any phrase and they usually are

content words. If you listen to any public speaker, politician or entertainer, you will hear them use this technique.

America’s former president, Barack Obama, is a wonderful example of someone who knows how to use emphasis

on keywords. He does three very important things on those words: he makes the stressed syllable in that word

longer, louder and higher in pitch. This is how we help our listeners turn their attention to our most important


Don’t forget to care

Most people love it when you remember their name. Remembering someone’s name creates an instant connection. Remembering someone’s name says, I care enough about you to remember what to call you.

So don’t forget to care!  Before you present be sure to chat with people in your audience. Meet as many people as possible and be tough on yourself and actually remember their names. Treat it like a competition with yourself, ‘How many names can I remember today?’ If it’s a business meeting, shake their hand on arrival and repeat their name as they say it to you. Then place their business cards in front of you (on the table) in the order people are sitting so you can be sure to call people by their names as often as possible (without being weird!).

If it’s a huge audience and you can’t meet them beforehand, be sure to facilitate activity and get your audience involved. When someone either participates, asks a question, or even answers a question that you’ve posed to the audience, be sure to ask the person their name and then thank them for their contribution by name for example, “Yes, that’s correct. What’s your name? (pause and let them tell you then repeat their name, let’s say it’s Calvin). You say, “Calvin. Thank you Calvin, etc….”

Don’t invite people to meetings unless they need to be there!

What should you do instead?

Take a leaf out of Dominic Price’s book. Dominic is the resident work futurist at Atlassian, who cancelled all meetings. He emptied his calendar of meetings after feeling frustrated at being consistently precluded from being able to schedule time in his working week. After he began declining every meeting invitation, two thirds of the meeting invitations, ‘disappeared without trace’. Unless his colleagues could explain both the purpose of the meeting, and his role in the meeting, he simply refused to attend! The point is, do you really need a meeting? And, who absolutely must attend?

Don’t introduce yourself at the start!

Don’t make the mistake most presenters do and start with, ‘Good morning, my name is Flossy Bloggs from (department) and thanks for your time today.’ You know, it’s rare that an audience will attend a presentation where they don’t know who is presenting or where they are from so you don’t need to remind them. The sad fact is they probably don’t care anyway – at least not until they know what it is you have to say that is going to help them in some way. What’s in it for them?

What should you do instead?

Make your opening statement count.

Use a relevant thought provoking icebreaker (fact, story, statistic, riddle), ask them a question or reflect something about them so it shows you know where they are coming from. Do something memorable (the law of primacy and recency says audiences remember the first and last things you say’. ‘Hook’ their attention so that want to pay close attention to what you have to say next.

If you’ve attended my Masterclass you know that you shouldn’t tell the audience your name, agenda, aim, or set any of the boring rules until you’ve established rapport.

Don’t look back over your shoulder at your slides!

When you do this it causes what’s known as ‘split attention’. Split attention is when your audience don’t know what to look at: you or your slides. It also looks like you don’t know what’s next in your message so your cheating off your slides.  If the slide is up and you want your audience to look at it, just move the side, gesture towards the slide, and don’t move – just let your audience focus on the slide. Then blank your slide (‘b’ key on the computer) walk back to the middle and reclaim your audience’s attention.

Don’t put the Q&A at the very end.

Have you ever asked for questions at the end and then your whole presentation is railroaded by a forceful person with an alternative agenda, or questions that confuse the rest of the group? This person and their dysfunctional behaviour renders your entire presentation a waste of time. The reason this happens is because of the law of primacy and recency that states we remember the first and last thing we hear.

Instead, of putting the Q&A at the very end, place it just before the end so that no matter whether your questions session is positive or negative you can bury it with some other content before people pack up to leave.

I recommend doing the Q&A and then moving to the negative and positive consequences of the idea and then a powerful closing statement.

Don’t oversell!

Often when persuading we think it’s a good idea to tell our clients absolutely all the benefits of our products or services.  It’s a natural result of feeling that helping someone see the pluses of our products and services is a good thing. The problem with this approach is that your audience has their own motivation for buying (or not). They will only buy if you address their needs. They don’t need to know everything, just the part that helps them to buy. So be careful not to bury your client in details. The more you overload them, the more they are likely to switch off.

Don’t talk too much.

Pause and breathe instead.  Let them think.  Let them catch up with what you’ve said.  Let them process your thoughts and add their own.  Often when we get nervous we don’t breathe.  We rush our words, in an effort to get through it more quickly.  Then our voice loses its strength, or shakes and we freak out.  Pause is powerful.  Do it more this week.

Don’t let them sense your fear of rejection.

Rejection is one of the most common fears. When you persuade for a living rejection can take a higher toll, so often we do what we can to avoid it. Please remember that your prospect senses your fear!  Remember that your client needs what you’ve got! If they don’t need it then change jobs! Ha! ha!  Don’t let a fear of rejection impact your sales performance.

Don’t meander around in the space.

The rule for presentation movement is this: either stand still or move with a purpose. So it’s OK to move, just go there because you meant to, and then stand still with strong legs and brace your core when you get there. Don’t allow yourself to move because your legs took you there and you’re not sure what’s going on.  Happy Presenting!

Don’t flick your gestures

When you flick your gesture (close your hand on a gesture) it negates the power of the gesture. So it looks like you didn’t really mean to do it. Instead, make sure your palm is open at the conclusion of a gesture and float it back to your side.

Don’t say: Ok? Obviously, Basically, You Know, or Alright?

These words are easily mismatched. They cause your audience to start looking for other things you’re saying that might not be right. Instead just pause and breath.

Don’t ask, “are there any questions?”

Why? Because it’s what we call a closed question and will generally result in weird or uncomfortable stares from your audience! There’s a cool part in your brain called the RAS. It tracks for what it knows. If you want to get great questions from your audience, instead say: “I’m interested in your questions. For example you might like to ask me about x or y or maybe even z. Who would like to start? What questions do you have?”  Try it. It works!

Don’t look at, or walk towards, someone who has just asked you a question

When an audience member asks you a question from the floor, be careful of the ‘moth to a flame’ syndrome.  This is where you hone-in on the person who asked the question and exclude all others. This can break rapport with the group at large and you’ll have to try very hard to re-establish rapport.

What should you do instead?

Make sure that you thank the person for their question and call them by their name if possible.

Then repeat the question and open out to the whole group (look at as many people as you can) as you paraphrase the question so everyone knows what the question was and so you maintain 100% inclusion.

Be super sure that you don’t turn your back on anyone when answering someone’s question.

Tip: After the question has been asked, make sure that you acknowledge the question asker.

Don’t forget to tell your face

There’s this thing in presenting called the emotional objective. It’s essentially the way you want your audience to feel throughout the meeting, and also once you’ve finished presenting. It’s a good thing to work this out before you present.

And then once you have worked out what you want your audience to feel, make sure you feel it too. This means you have to remember to tell your face what to feel! If your facial expressions don’t match what you are saying then your audience will be confused about your emotional objective and at best they’ll guess what they are meant to feel, at worst they’ll just switch off. Remember that your audience can see every smile, smirk and grimace and they use every expression to find meaning in your message.

Just by holding an emotional word in your head with consciousness and clarity your entire body will know what to do to help you and your audience feel what you are feeling.  Whatever you want to feel and express then all you have to do is to tell your face.

Don’t play PowerPoint karaoke

In one of my Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclasses we were talking about how (contrary to popular belief) the slides are not ‘the presentation’. In fact, the slides are just one of your visual aids to reinforce your key messages for your audience. We were lamenting about how in some presentations it’s just all about the slides – particularly in staff training. The presenter just clicks through the slides one and time and says things like, “this slide is about ….” “and this is a slide to show you ….” “and on this slide you can see….”

One of the fellows in the room just said, “Yes, that’s what ALL our staff training is like.” What he meant is that the trainer just clicks through one slide after the other and says nothing other than exactly what is written on each and every slide. He then said, “Whenever I’m invited to participate in staff training I make myself unavailable so I can do it on-line in my own time. I’m not interested in PowerPoint karaoke!” What he was saying, is that there is no difference between attending the live event and just watching the slides in your own time.

Let’s be clear. When a trainer just clicks you through one slide after the other: THIS IS NOT STAFF TRAINING. THIS IS SIMPLY A WASTE OF TIME! What a shame. Opportunity lost to engage and shift the hearts and minds of trainees.  Such a shame.

In 2019 please gift your trainers some world-class presentation skills training so they can engage their audience, hook attention and truly change trainees behaviour through stimulating, generative, adult learning initiatives.

Don’t think you can warm up once you’re up there!

As humans, we can’t help judging someone immediately within the first few seconds of meeting them. Researcher Nalini Ambady calls this quick first impression, “thin-slicing.”

Remember that people’s first impression of you happens the moment someone sees you.  It’s based on the way you talk, walk, gesture, dress, use your non-verbals, and facial expressions.

In fact there’s some research that suggests it takes 9 seconds to form a first impression.

For this reason it’s important to ‘turn on’ before you actually greet people, shake their hand or open your presentation. It’s critical you engage with ‘presence’ as soon as you enter a room.  You’ll be much more likely to be able to do all this if you rehearse plenty of times before you get the event.

Vanessa Van Edwards undertook some research into what it is about TED talks that makes certain talks out-rank others. Go to to watch some really fantastic speeches online.  Van Edwards found that ‘participants made their decisions about the speaker and the entire talk in the first seven seconds of the video’.

I’ve been teaching persuasive presenting for well over 2 decades now and it’s not rocket science is it? It’s critical to grab your audience with a catchy icebreaker: statistic, story, joke, fact, quote. And make sure whatever you do creates the personal brand you’re aiming for in your audience’s mind straight away.

While you’re at it, make sure that your first slide has an incredible title (I call it the PURPOSE in my masterclass) that tells the audience what they will achieve by listening. And be sure to include an even more impressive image on that first slide. For example: “Business Intelligence Update: clarity in a sea of data” with a picture of something like jelly fish in razor sharp focus floating around in the sea. Go to for awesome free images for your opening slide.

Start your next presentation in a way that will ensure you ‘hook’ your audience’s attention.

Don’t freak out if the technology fails in your presentation!

If anything goes wrong with your slides or the equipment, don’t panic, keep cool. It happens to everyone at one time or another. The problem can probably very easily be fixed, and there will be several people ready to offer assistance. Best of all, the audience will be completely sympathetic to you.

What should you do instead?

Don’t make a fuss about the equipment and draw even more negative attention to yourself. Remember that the audience is not expecting perfection, they’re not expecting the rapid pace of a TV show, but they DO want you to keep going and show you are in control.

Remain calm and proceed as best you can. There are no marks at stake and nobody will sack you! Take your time, tell the audience something they will find interesting, show enthusiasm for your topic, and just keep going. I have a planned recovery technique if this happen to me. I have a funny little story that I tell that distracts the audience from the staging man who is frantically trying to get it all back up and running. Maybe you should do the same?

Try where possible to have a back-up just in case you have to ditch the slides all together. After all, you’re not there to show a slide show. You’re there to talk to the humans! If you’re passionate about your content and flexible with your visuals (this means you can whip out a whiteboard marker, or grab some flip chart pens and draw it instead) you’ll wow the crowd without the slides.

Don’t say: “I know you can’t read this but I’m going to show you anyway!

How many times have you seen a presenter put up a dreadful slide full of 8 point font and 500 words that gives you an instant migraine. And then they say: “I know you can’t read this, but I’m going to show you anyway!”  Seriously!  Most people are guilty of this little oops!

Please remember the golden rule when presenting with slides: If they can’t read it, don’t put it! If it’s too small, get it off your slides and give a handout instead. And don’t apologize for anything on your slides. If you believe something will be hard to read or understand, don’t use it.

Remember at all times to ask these two critical questions:

1.  Is this the best way to visually reinforce this point?

2.  Am I serving my audience or myself when I put this up?

If you need help with slides I have a brilliant team of designers who can help you create your next breathtakingly beautiful presentation that embeds your key messages and stays with your audience  forever. Just contact me and we’ll help:

Don’t expect your ‘canned’ presentation to work the same way with all audiences every time!

It’s important that you don’t assume that your standard keynote/presentation is going to work for everyone, even if you’ve been saying or doing the same thing for years. We are all different, with different learning styles, different personality filters and different values.

What should you do instead?

  1. Be sure to do your research prior to every presentation. Work out what your audience is thinking, feeling and doing before you present. Then work out what you want them to be thinking, feeling and doing. Make sure your presentation achieves this outcome for you.
  2. Work out if what you have to offer will be of value to them.  In the business world, be sure you don’t deliver someone else’s presentation because they are away or sick or too busy. You won’t do yourself, the content or the audience justice if it’s not your thing. You’re better to cancel and let the real expert deliver the message when they are bacon deck. Professional speakers, if you believe that what the client is asking for is not your expertise, then be honest and tell them. Ideally  even refer someone else! When someone asks me for customer service training I refer them to Peter Merrett and Cath DeVrye. That’s their thing not mine. I’m an authority on persuasive presenting in business. I’d only damage my brand if I tried to be everything to everyone. Whilst it can be hard to turn business away it’s better to decline work with some clients if you don’t believe you can help them.
  3. Work out the problems and then work out how you’ll solve them. Once you know you’re the best person for the job, tailor your message to specifically fix their problems. You want people walking out at the end feeling you have served them well and their problem is fixed. You’ll get repeat bookings when you have the winning solution to people’s pain.

Don’t ask people to do ‘activities’ in your presentations without learning how to facilitate adults respectfully! 

If you’re going to get people to do an exercise, please be sure to do the following:

  1. Be clear yourself why you are really doing it and what tangible difference it will make to them. If you can’t come up with a really good answer then leave it out.
  2. Tell the audience exactly why. Don’t leave it for them to work it out, or simply tell them that’s what you always do.
  3. Explain what you want them to do do in three different ways. The first time you say it they don’t hear you. The second time you say it they hear but don’t understand. The third time they hear and understand.
  4. Always debrief activities. If our audience respect us enough to do the activity, we owe them some respect in return. Give them a wrap-up of the outcomes of the activity, the learning that was achieved, next steps to think about.

Adults generally hate role plays for the sake of interaction, but they will participate in activities that have an obvious purpose and outcome.

Note: If you’d like me to come and run my Facilitating Groups workshop please let me know. This 1/2 day interactive, energising workshop will show your people how to encourage adults to participate in presentations and trainings in a way that embeds the learning, so they remember the point, and use what they’ve learnt. Contact me here:

Don’t just ask for the thing you need without thinking through it first!

Rapport, rapport, rapport! Before you can influence others you must build rapport with them. My advice is to:

Make a plan – what do you want to achieve?

Use pacing and leading – pacing involves being like your audience in your dress, body language, eye contact, vocal variety, style, language, interests and attitudes. Some people call this matching or mirroring. Leading is taking the audience where you want them to go. Your audience or stakeholder won’t follow you or give you permission to lead them unless they feel an affiliation with you. You really can’t ask for anything until you have first built rapport. Well, you can ask, but they’ll probably say no!

Show them what’s in it for them to change – we know this as the WIIFM or ‘what’s in it for me’.

Cialdini’s influence patterns – help you identify some other things to consider. What will excite this person or audience? Which of the 6 principles of social influence is most likely to work when persuading them? For more information I recommend you read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

Understand the person’s personality filters – the way they experience, respond to and manage their environment determines the best approach for you to take. I run an awesome 1/2 day program called Understanding People that takes you through the main personality filters (not found in MBTI) that you should consider and manage whilst influencing others. If you’re interested in training up your team in this essential theory and practice, please email me:

Happy Presenting!

Don’t make your slide text-heavy!

The average slide has 50 words on it. We know from the science of NLP that the conscious mind can only remember seven, plus or minus two. That’s between 5 and 9 things. So at best your text-heavy slides are confusing, at worst they are actually stopping your audience from understanding your key messages. It’s called cognitive overload.

What should you do instead?

  1. Replace words with beautiful, memorable images. Remember a picture speaks a thousand words.
  2. Eliminate bullet point slides. Turn three bullet points into three slides – each with a picture that bleeds to the edge of the screen. It will be much more memorable than three bullet points could ever be.
  3. Use simple graphs and charts to display data.  This may mean you need to create the graphs yourself rather than importing them from another document. Only reproduce the key information on graphs.
  4. Use a yellow circle or a stylish build if you want the audience to focus on something on a busy slide. i.e. “You can see in the yellow circle that….”
  5. Keep your fonts to a minimum of 30pt. If they are any smaller, the audience probably can’t read them.
  6. I’m often quoted as saying, “If they can’t see it, don’t show it!” Please remember my wise words!

Note: This might mean you have two copies of your information. One is the busy slide deck with lots of words, small graphs and charts, and many appendices; the other is the calm, clean version of your busy pack. It just shows the key points on the slide – the points you want your audience to remember.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Happy Presenting!

p.s. Need help with your slide design? MBE Design team will help you create beautiful slides that stick in people’s memory for all the right reasons. And at a fraction of the price of other slide design companies. We want to be your presentation partner. Please email me today: 

Don’t put your report format on your slides!

A report is a standalone document that has lots of information – facts, statistics, data and graphs. A report is intended to be read like a book or a brochure. And yes, even though reports are often created in PowerPoint, that doesn’t mean they should be shown on your presentation screen.

If you show your report on your presentation screen, your audience will be confused by the small text and lack of focus. It will distract them while you are speaking. They can’t read your busy slide and listen to you speak at the same time (it’s called cognitive overload).

    1. Instead:
  1. Be sure to just have simple images that convey your key messages on your slides.
  2. Practice your presentation so you know what to say next and remember that you are the speaker, so you should be doing the speaking, not the slides!
  3. If your audience needs details in words on a page, create a separate document that backs up your data as a leave behind, or handout.

Don’t think that near enough is good enough

Here are just a few of my tips for staying profitable in 2018:

  1. Be the best. Make sure you are the best at what you do. Be the person your customers go to when they need what you offer whether that be a product, service or advice. Remember, your personal brand is what people say about you ‘behind your back! Continually grow and develop yourself and your offering and make ‘expert’ an authentic personal brand word for yourself in your area of interest in 2017.
  2. Add value. Add more value to your offering than ever before. Evolve the way you do things to stay current and innovative – WHAT ELSE can you do to further exceed your customers’ individual expectations?
  3. Know your customers. Understand your customers inside out so you can give them what they need. Use my think/feel/do analysis to help conduct a thorough needs analysis of your customer (you can read that about in my book called How to Present (Wiley). Also, try to keep using as many of the advanced language patterns I teach whilst talking with your clients so you can pitch and influence with the highest levels of rapport.

Don’t say, “For those of you who don’t know me”

What should you do instead?

One difference between a presenter who is good and a presenter who is exceptional is how they use language.

There are a variety of statements or ‘turns of phrase’ that business presenters use regularly in their presentations. Some of them don’t help build rapport and others are quite a ‘turn-off’ to your audience.

Today let’s focus on just one statement that I recommend you don’t use. I will suggest a proactive alternative instead.

Don’t say….. “For those of you who don’t know me.”

This combination of words is not inclusive in nature. What about the people who do know you? You’ll alienate everyone who does know you when you say it like that.

I suggest you replace these words with something like: “I have met some of you before and I look forward to getting to know everyone here today. My name is….” Or, how about simply, “My name is…” Or you could try, “It’s wonderful to see you here today. I’m Michelle …”

Don’t think that objections will go away or sort themselves out

What should you do instead?

Whether influencing one person or many, we are sometimes faced with the fact that parts of our message may be objected to, or at least be a surprise to the stakeholder.  If the message is ‘controversial’ or needs a special framework around it, then care is required in framing the message so as to maintain positive interest and rapport.

It is relatively easy to overcome most resistances to our message by using a technique called “Pacing Out Objections”.

In essence this technique alerts the audience ‘up-front’ to elements of your message that they may (potentially) object to.  This often settles them sufficiently to at least listen to you – and you never know, the objection may have just disolved.

Steps for Pacing Out Objections

  1. Plan your message.
  2. Mismatch it and find all the possible objections.
  3. Determine the ‘higher values’ that would appeal your stakeholder. Some examples might be to reduce stress, reduce waste, improve morale, increase job satisfaction, more money, more time.

Don’t think people know why you’re the best person for the job – people forget stuff!

What should you do instead?

Well truthfully, people forget. I don’t mean that all people forget all things, but most people forget a lot of things – don’t you think?

When it comes to why you should be promoted over someone else or given that extra opportunity or responsibility in your company, people forget.

They forget where you worked before, what your qualifications are, what you experience is, which projects you’ve contributed to.  And they’ve forgotten all of this about you even if you work with them every day of your life.  Really, they have!

Your job is to stay present.  Remind the senior leaders in your business about the awesome work you do whenever an appropriate opportunity presents itself. This assures them that you’re still keen and successful.

Create a feeling of satisfaction by showing them how you have satisfied others. Communicate your successes, new clients, recent achievements, latest awards, best testimonials. Tell them about cuts in costs, staff developments, growth in revenue.

Brands like Magnum ice-cream continually remind their buyers that it’s an awesome product. With appropriate modesty you must do this too. Out of sight is out of mind. Stay front of mind in your business.

Don’t cause cognitive overload in your audience!

What should you do instead?
Australian research lead by Professor John Sweller at the University of NSW has uncovered a theory known as the “cognitive load theory”. It suggests that the human brain processes and retains more information if it is digested in either verbal or written formats, not both (SMH Patty 2007).

“The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster,” Professor Sweller said. “It should be ditched.”

Further, he suggests that diagrams can be useful, but it is not effective to say the same words that are written on the slides because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases the audience’s ability to fully comprehend what is being presented.

If you have graphs, diagrams, bullet points or words on your slides, it is important to understand Sweller’s theory of cognitive load.

To avoid ‘cognitive load’ or what I call ‘split attention’, ensure the audience is clear that they should either be looking at you (as you ‘claim your space’ and engage them from the middle with the screen image blanked out). Or, you give permission to the audience to look at the screen (as you stand out of the way and allow them time to read the slide).

Don’t force people to agree with your idea!

What should you do instead?

It’s important when engaging in ethical persuasion that your stakeholder never feels coerced, forced or manipulated into doing something that they don’t want to do. They must feel a measure of freedom in the decision making process.

In other words, it’s your job as the persuader, to communicate your solution so that your stakeholder can see it’s just what they need. When they can sense that what you’ve got is what they need, they will be quick to agree or snap it up!

Your stakeholder must always feel that they made their own decision to take the action, buy the product or endorse your idea.

Pacing and leading is the technique I teach to help you do this. You can learn this in my book called How to Present here or in my Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass here.

Understand what it is that your stakeholder wants and give that to them.

Don’t even think about going into a presentation with a lack of belief in your message!

What should you do instead?

If you are not confident at a cellular level that your audience needs your product or service, then it’s not a great idea to present it just yet. Learn more about your client. Understand their major challenges and when you know that your product or service definitely resolves their challenges, be sure to tell them straight away and with enthusiasm.

If you don’t think that your idea is brilliant then don’t put it forward just yet. Wait until you have refined the idea into a brilliant problem fix. This will give you the confidence you need to wow them with your belief in yourself and your ideas.


  1. Re-read all the positive feedback people have already given you about your ideas, or your products and services. I have a file of all the cards, letters and emails that clients have sent me over the last 2 decades. When I need a confidence boost, it’s lovely to pull out those gifts and re-read them. They remind me of the positive impact I’ve made in people’s lives.
  2. Then, make a big list of everything your stakeholders receive when they agree to your idea, buy your product or hire you. When you know the benefits you provide, it gives you courage to talk about this with others.

Don’t tell yourself that mistakes mean failure.

I’ve got some fantastic news for you today! Mistakes you make when presenting are okay. When no one except you knows the content or structure of your presentation or which slides you’re supposed to show and when, it is perfect just the way you present it. Doesn’t that give you some peace of mind?

Don’t take yourself TOO seriously!

Be confident and committed without being arrogant and cocky or too highly-strung and bossy. It’s essential you remember you’re there to serve the audience so be present, be kind, and be nice to the people around you. Have a laugh if something is funny. Let your face do some of the talking because facial expressions are so endearing when they convey authentic emotion.

Don’t bring your personal dramas and grumpy pants to the stage!

Remember to ask yourself: ‘What do I want my audience to feel?’, then make sure you feel it too. No one wants to listen to a ‘cup is half empty’, ‘downer’, and ‘negative’ person with personal issues!

Remember, you have a choice about how you show up. You are ultimately in control of your feelings and emotions. Do your therapy in private, not with an audience.

Is there a stance I should not do as a presenter?

The Fig Leaf or Crotch Clutch position is where you stand with your hands covering your crotch! I commonly notice that male board members and politicians are photographed in this stance! Ha!
This is the only stance you shouldn’t do. It makes everyone look at the one part of your body you’d probably rather they didn’t! I’ll say no more! Instead place your hands by your side in the natural stance or move them with a purpose to reinforce your various points.

Don’t introduce yourself at the start

Don’t make the mistake most presenters do and start with, ‘Good morning, my name is Flossy Bloggs from (department) and thanks for your time today.’ You know, it’s rare that an audience will attend a presentation where they don’t know who is presenting or where they are from so you don’t need to remind them. The sad fact is they probably don’t care anyway – at least not until they know what it is you have to say that is going to help them in some way. What’s in it for them?

What should you do? Make your opening statement count. Use a relevant thought provoking icebreaker (fact, story, statistic, riddle), ask them a question or reflect something about them so it shows you know where they are coming from. Do something memorable (the law of primacy and regency says audiences remember the first and last things you say. Hook their attention so that want to pay close attention to what you have to say next.

Is it OK to stand with your legs crossed over?

In one word…. No! The main reason is that it draws people’s gaze to your nether region! It also makes you look unstable. Women stand like this a lot. And it’s not a good choice. Instead go for feet hip-width apart. This is a more stable stance. You’ll feel stronger and more confident and it looks good too.

Don’t let the facts speak for themselves

“It doesn’t matter how good your message is if no one is listening!” Michelle Bowden

A common mistake that subject matter experts make is to think that your facts will speak for themselves. If you let your facts, data, and raw information overwhelm the presentation with little focus on your emotional objectives your audience will not understand, remember, or be persuaded by what you’ve told them. Remember you have a responsibility to your audience and to yourself, to selectively and strategically present your key points with the appropriate delivery techniques (gestures, voice, visual aids, body movement, stories, eye contact etc.) to bring your content alive.

Don’t kill your audience with Death by PowerPoint!

Death by PowerPoint is too many words on too many slides that people can’t read.

If you choose to use slides, use photos and images not bullet points…the bigger the better.

A picture paints a thousand words. There are two purposes that slides serve:

  1. To help your audience understand your message more quickly than they would without visual aids.
  2. To help your audience remember what you’ve said for longer.

If you choose to use slides, get rid of all bullet point slides and use graphs and charts and images as creatively as possible.

Don’t tell them you’re nervous

Presenters sometimes think they can disarm an audience by announcing their nervousness before anyone notices it. This is a mistake because often your audience didn’t even notice it.

Most nervousness isn’t visible because it’s an internal state. When you tell people you’re nervous speaking to them, chances are they’ll look for signs of it from that point on. Why undermine your own credibility?

 Make sure your design the message with your audience in mind, rehearse the message s you know you know it an then just put your best foot forward and your audience will love you!

Don’t be so serious!

I’ve watched lots of business presentations in my career. And it seems that most people in business are under the illusion that ‘professional’ means ‘serious’. Guess what? Life can be fun!

Plan your emotional objective. Work out what you want your audience to feel at various times in your presentation. and then make sure you feel it too. If you want then to be excited, be excited!

Of course if you are announcing redundancies or closures then your emotions need to be congruent with the theme of the presentation.

Mostly though we just want to enjoy ourselves in people’s presentations and that won’t happen until you lighten up.

Don’t POKE at your screen!

How many times have you seen a presenter walk over, in front of the glare of the PowerPoint lamp, and use their finger to point out what the audience is meant to be looking at on the slide. In so doing, they make little rabbit shadow puppets and project their profile shadow all over the screen while much of the slide image is printed onto their body. Yuck! It’s ungainly, unprofessional and definitely not best practice.

What should you do instead? Colour code your slides. Put the slide up, walk to the opposite side of the room, gesture to your slide with a nice open arms and palm, and refer to the part of the slide that you want your audience to look at by colour. For example, “you can see in the yellow circle….” Or ,”the blue bar in the graphs illustrates….” This is the best way to have your audience look at the correct part of a slide.

Don’t just turn up and hope for the best!

Imagine that your presentation starts in an hour. You arrive at the venue and to your complete horror the projector won’t work with your laptop, they don’t have the MAC adaptor and the slides you spent hours preparing are useless. This is a disaster!

Or what about this….you turn up at the venue and find that the chairs are facing the wrong way, or they are situated with pillars obstructing people’s views, or the lighting is all wrong (the audience may be sitting in the dark and you can’t see their eyes). Oh no – this simply will not do!

What should you do instead?

You can avoid incorrect room set up by taking time to familiarise yourself with the venue and available equipment before the day of your presentation. Ideally, you should send a diagram to your venue organiser well in advance, so they can see exactly how you need the stage, room and visuals to be set.

Further, you must get there early on the day to make sure you have time to get up on the stage and get the feel of it all. You’ll need to do this when the audience is out having a coffee break so plan properly. This way, you will feel like you ‘own’ that stage, and you’ll nail it!

Remember you are the presenter and you should be in control of your self, your message and your environment if you are to manage your nerves and achieve the outcomes for your audience that you desire. Proper preparation prevents poor performance!

Don’t read your notes or slides to your audience.

Masterful presenting is really all about the eye contact!  If you are keen to engage your audience it’s a good idea to at least try and deliver your presentation without using any notes or slides as a crutch. Look right at them and just talk!

Credibility: Remember, your audience members are more likely to be convinced by what you say if they feel an affiliation for you and your message, and if you command credibility as the presenter.  If you have to keep referring to your notes (or worse, turning around to see what’s on your slides) you suggest to your audience that you don’t know your message well enough and/or that you do not respect your audience because you have not taken the required time to adequately prepare.Rapport: Regular reference to notes also causes you to break critical eye contact and therefore rapport with your audience, which gives them opportunities to lose focus.  This will have a direct impact on your rapport.  So give some rehearsal a go. Rehearse as often as possible. Rehearsing gives you confidence to go ‘off script’ and be authentic where possible. Rehearsal means you’ll remember what to say.

Rehearsal not Rote: And by the way, remember rehearsal is not the same as rote learning. Rehearsal is where you practice saying it in different way. Rote learning is where you try and memorise your content, word for word. You don’t want to sound robotic, instead you want to sound as authentic as possible, so rehearsal is a generally a much better choice than rote.

Extra tip: Place your notes to the side with a drink of water and only use them if you really must.

Masterful presenting is really all about the eye contact!

Don’t assume they got the point!

A lot of times, as the presenter, you know your material so well that you think you’re making each point clear. You might not be.

Make sure you are telling people why. It’s the ‘why’ around our ideas that makes them spread. Articulate the ‘why’ so your audience understands what’s magnificent about your big idea. Make sure you explain the ‘what’, which is your facts and data. Include some ‘how’ in there too, so people who like to take action can do so easily.

DON’T think you can wing it!

Sorry, I know it’s probably bad news for you. Excellent presenters prepare properly. They don’t ever try to just ‘wing it’. Steve Jobs was a famously inspiring speaker. His speeches looked so effortless, yet if you’ve ever read anything about him you’ll know he prepared for days. We should do the same.

Careful preparation is essential for a persuasive presentation. I recommend you use some sort of analysis process first, then use post-it notes to brainstorm out your ideas. Then, if you have time to craft some advanced linguistic patterns into your message so that you are as persuasive as possible, that’s awesome too. Perhaps read my book How to Present to learn exactly how to do this.