What are the Biggest Mistakes Conference Speakers Make on Stage ?
12 BIG Mistakes & TIPS on how to avoid them.
Having attended hundreds of conferences I have seen a LOT of speaker mistakes – here’s a list of 12 BIG Things to avoid and some Useful Tips for Presenters & Speakers
Please don’t make these common speaker mistakes at any upcoming event.
1. It’s Data dump – Way too much info
Too many slides – not enough pictures and stories. Just lots of points, bullet lists, facts and data. Reading words and sentences from the Slide – exactly as written.
TIP: Shift from Logic to Emotion with by adding more stories, case studies, people and interaction. Improve your “Story to Stuff ratio”.
Leave them wanting MORE of you – not LESS. THINK “This is just PART 1 of 10 parts and I will be back” – Good speakers are invited back often.
2.Poorly designed Powerpoint
Way too much TEXT and dot points. Lots of small font writing on the slides.
Avoid Tiny Font Size – use BIG text so we can read it.
Presenter shows many Graphs & Tables while saying “You can read this but…” TIP: Use better pictures that we can see and have a low text to pics ratio.
Avoid wrong Coloured fonts – We can’t read light blue on dark blue., Red on Black Background is hard to read from the back.
Missing Edges – Don’t put text or pics near the slide edges – these can get cut off and can’t be seen when shown on a screen.
Low screen height in some rooms means the audience can’t read the bottom third of the powerpoint screen.
Avoid Using High Res (3MB+) pics – these are slow to load and cause a delayed clicker response.
Avoid bells, whistles, weird transition slides – they are annoying.
Using “Funny” Cartoons that need to be read/explained or don’t make sense
TIP: Put MORE effort into your powerpoint. Slides are NOT notes, they are visual entertainment – Use fewer words on screen and less slides if you know your stuff. Read the presentation design books by Nancy Duarte
3. Poor use of Powerpoint
Clicking backwards or forwards rapidly through the slide deck looks BAD – as does skipping lots slides while saying “you don’t need this”.
TIPS: press B, Press W or type the slide number and press return. –
Always Have a Backup Plan – print out your slides and have a copy handy in case of trouble.
4. Poor Microphone Use
Tapping the mike or looking clueless on stage about how to turn the microphone on. Avoid Leaning forward over the lectern mike (Darth Vader throat sound effect). Speaking in the opposite direction to the microphone.
TIP: Clip the lapel mike 10 cm under your chin in the centre. Learn how to turn it on and off and connect it. Work co-operatively with the AV department and they will help you.
5. Trouble with Technology or Videos – Can’t use the “Clicker” or laptop computer
Press the right buttons! Don’t make apologies about your bad AV skills – learn them.
Videos can cause problems – Learn how to properly embed and attach any videos in a presentation. Always do a pre-check that the Videos will run from the AV desk and know how to troubleshoot your laptop. (You also need (c) copyright to show anybody else’s videos or music)
TIP: Learn how to use the presentation clicker & a laser pointer (not your finger). If there are multiple screens and you use a laser pointer – point to all the screens or just avoid it.
6. Not connecting with the Audience – Little eye contact – Your Eyes are Down or Away from audience
Face the audience not the presentation screen! They want to see your eyes.
Don’t stare at the back wall or a just few spots. Look around the audience and connect with individual audience members.
Avoid wandering the stage side to side or pace needlessly looking down at the floor.
TIP: Start by standing in one power spot – proud and loud. Learn stage anchoring techniques.
7. Speaker looks like a Hobo! – A Fashion disaster
Wear bright colours to stand out – NOT drab colours to look dreary. Avoid wearing Black clothing in front of a black stage – we cant see you!
TIP: Dress to impress! – Hair, makeup, teeth, clothes.
8. Lousy First or Last Impression
Some speakers fumble at the start & have a weak finish. Don’t open with apologies or niceties – get to the point. Don’t finish with “Well My time is up” – End on Time or before!
TIP: Start and finish strong. Being memorable makes more money. Last words Linger. Avoid finishing up with Q & A session. Come back and wrap up for another 5 mins after questions.
9. Speaker goes way over their allocated time. Poor Timing & Pacing
Does audience attention run out before your content finishes?. Remember the only person who loves your content as much as you is you (and maybe your mum?)
TIP: Less is more. Be focussed. Repeat the message in different ways using stories, examples or anecdotes. THREE BIG POINTS or IDEAS is usually sufficient for a presentation.
10. Poor Stagecraft – use of the stage / presenting space
Avoid wandering in front of projector – Highlighting your body! Wobbling around pointlessly gives the audience nausea. Keep your hands and arms under control too.
Don’t Stand in the DARK spot on stage – Step into the light – Find and stand in the glare of the spotlight.
Avoid wandering aimlessly between the laptop (to advance slides) and the screen to point at things.
TIP: Standing and delivering from one power spot can help (on left of stage or centre from the audience view), change spots when you change points. Learn stage anchoring and how to use the presentation clicker more discreetly.
11. Upset or offended the Audience
Don’t refer to any audience members by name to humiliate or embarass them. Don’t rub their “pain spot” endlessly by pointing out things they do wrong – Cause NO pain!
Don’t bully the audience – avoid using phrases “You must” “You should” or “You need to”
TIP: Avoid causing them pain or using politically incorrect, sexist or racist comments
12. Don’t Be a Jerk!
Don’t criticise, condemn or complain about the organiser, other speakers, the venue or your lack of time or preparation. Stop making excuses.
TIP: Be a professional, positive and smile more on stage.
Avoid these Common Mistakes and be a Conference Speaker or Presenter that is MEMORABLE for all the RIGHT REASONS
- World-class presentation content
- Conference presentations that make people think in radical ways
- Immediate practical take-home messages from every presentation
- Total focus on the interests of the audience in every speech
- Presenter fits material into whole theme of conference
- Interesting, energetic, dynamic – not racist, sexist or ageist
- Give the kind of presentation where conference audiences want MORE
FOLLOW THE EIGHT CORE COMPETENCIES OF THE PROFESSIONAL SPEAKERS ASSOCIATION
- Professional Awareness
- Professional Relationships
- Topic Development
- Platform Mechanics
- Presenting & Performing
- Authorship and Development
- Sales & Marketing
- Managing the Business
ABOUT THE BLOG AUTHOR – David Staughton CSP
David “Big Dave” Staughton is an Award-winning Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) with over 15 years of professional speaking & consulting experience. He is a past board member of Professional Speakers Australia and an advisor to a large Australian speakers bureau.
Big Hat Professional Services provides Online Workshops, Webinars and Coaching on Business Strategy, Sales and Service using Certified Speakers and Trainers.
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