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Three biggest mistakes you make while presenting (and how to fix them)

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Without effective presentation skills, even the best content has no value.

It doesn't matter whether or not you want to get better at presenting; in this day and age, you have to. A lot of people resist this idea until they reach a stage in their career where they simply have to embrace it to level up. It could be in an interview, a VC pitch, a download of your project with your boss or a speech you're giving your team --> you have to be able to communicate your ideas, thoughts & intentions purposefully.

Giving an effective presentation is an adrenaline rush I've always enjoyed but one that I wasn't always very good at. It would take one curveball to throw me off my game and then it was a slippery slope of nervous sweats to stuttering my words to forgetting important points I wanted to communicate. This was, until, I studied the science of presenting and over the years, worked to implement nuances into my communication. Fast forward a few years and I now not only enjoy presenting but also am able to communicate my points in an effective, purposeful and concise manner.

If you're looking for actionable advice right away, following are 3 of my biggest takeaways:

Tip #1 - Speak in bullets

Stop talking like your presentation is one long run-on sentence. A lot of us do this unknowingly and when we realize we're in the middle of word-vomit, we get nervous which takes us from bad to terrible.

Solution? Every slide in your presentation should have three bullets. It could be the "agenda" slide, the "problem"slide or the "next steps" more, no less than three bullets on the page and that is how you're going to speak to the slide as well.

"Today, we want to cover three things"

"When we analyzed the issue, we found three gaps. The first...."

"In terms of next steps, we have three action items"

^Every single time you open your mouth in a presentation, aim to speak in bullets. You will

1) grasp your listener's attention because you've now given them a tool to organize your word-vomit in their head

2) forget less because when you train your brain to remember bullets instead of paragraphs, you're signifcantly more likely to remember what needs to be said

3) speak more concisely because you're forcing yourself to organize your speech

There. I just did it.

Tip #2 - Stitch to succeed

If I went and polled 5 people who were listening to your presentation, could they accurately summarize what you spoke about?

Chances are probably not (unless they're that one person who wrote down everything you said). Nine times out of ten, individuals will ask "Will you share out that slide deck?"because they are literally retaining zero of what you're saying.

The trick to change that is to stitch together your slides. Literally.

At the end of each slide, you want to have ONE sentence that recaps everything you just said.

At the beginning of each slide, you want to have ONE sentence that explains why this slide is after the previous one.

At the end of your presentation, you want to have ONE sentence that verbalizes your agenda and the one takeaway each of your slides had (very similar to Dora the Explorer when she used to recap her journey at the end of the episode)

If you haven't caught on already, be concise. We live in a distracted world. Keep my attention through brevity.

"I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have the time." – Mark Twain

Tip #3 - Breathe

Anytime we get nervous, the FIRST thing that happens is we start breathing through our mouth (go on, try it the next time you're in a nerve-wracking position).

Solution? Next time you're in a tense situation, take a second and breathe through your nose. As you do it, listen to your breath. It takes a second to do but it recalibrates you, your thoughts and your focus. You would much rather have an awkward silence of breathing rather than 4 sentences of stuttering word-vomit because you were nervous.

Don't let something you can control get out of control.

give it a shot.

Don't let the takeaways here run through your mind once and forget 'em. Take a second and actively think how you can implement at least one of them. You got this.

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