With so many opinions expressed about public speaking (something I too am guilty of), I was excited to see Dave Paradi’s fact-based survey exploring the most annoying behaviors of presenters.
With Dave’s permission, I have taken the annoyances he found and transformed them into actionable tips:
- Have a clear, primary purpose (to inform, persuade, inspire, or entertain)
- Have a single message framed from the audience’s perspective as: To (what) so that (why/outcome/benefit). This will help eliminate information overload and ‘data dump.’
- Apply a narrative flow that supports your purpose & message
- Customize your content (at least to a degree) for your specific audience
- Instead of reading text from slides, use them as a launching and landing point
- Limit the amount of time you spend facing the screen
- Rehearse to figure out what slides belong in your presentation. Delete or Appendix the rest. Never skip slides.
- “Mute” your slide by going to black (hit the “b” key) when you want to focus your audience’s attention on you
- Use pauses to eliminate filler words
- Plan where you will stand and where you will move to (avoid standing projector’s line-of-sight)
- Make sure text is large enough to be read easily by people seated in the back of the room
- Proofread your slides to eliminate typos
- Use short bursts of text (or bullets), not full sentences
- Use the simplest diagram possible to support/prove the message of a slide. (Tables are rarely the best choice.)
- Use a harmonious color palette and apply intentional use of contrast
- Avoid clip-art and random images that just dress-up a slide
- Use video sparingly and only when contextually relevant (and well tested in the environment/room you present in)
- Builds are fine but avoid decorative animation
IV. Odds & Ends
- Ask yourself if the topic warrants a presentation or could be handled more efficiently with an email or a conversation
- Recognize that design software can be used to create presentations or documents. Create one or the other depending on where and how you will use it.
Try it Out!
Dave Paradi also has a couple great, free self-assessments. Check them out at: