12 Reasons Your Presentation Sucks (and how to fix it)


So you had to present in a large conference and the feedback was not that great…

It can be the audience’s fault of course… but maybe… just maybe, it’s you who failed to deliver.


Here’s a quick check-list with common mistakes to avoid when working preparing a presentation:


1. You start your preparations too late 

You are a busy man with a successful career but when you stand on a stage you are all alone and exposed - get prepared. 

I usually start preparing my slides 4 weeks in advanced because I know how hard it is for me to free up the time and concentrate on the creative work. I’ve seen so many brilliant people fail with their presentation simply because they didn’t invest enough in it. 



2. You don’t spend enough time planning

Like any project, presentations need to be planned ahead:

  1. The message you want to deliver
  2. The opening
  3. key takeaways
Crystalize your message, structure your slides, hold a note with ideas and key sentences you wish to use and make sure to write down any idea that pops to mind during the preparations phase.

3. You have a weak opening 

The people in the audience will give you a few minutes before they start checking their emails.
Without a strong opening you may lose them before you even get to the good stuff. 
Make sure your first few slides look amazing and be sure to practice a lot on your opening words. 



4. You get lazy with your slides

Good presentations need visually appealing slides. 
Your audience suffers from a short attention span so your mission is to keep everyone engaged and fascinated by using great looking slides and speedy rhythm.

Instead of keeping a static slide for 10 minutes while you are talking, break it into 4-5 simpler slides to build a momentum. 




5. You use too much text

Ever saw an Apple presentation?
They use one sentence (or a few very short bullets) in each slide. Some of their slides have only one word.  

Presentations in large conferences are meant to be fun - reading is not fun, and steals aways the attention.
Replace the text with an image and a few words next to it.
The missing text should be spoken by you and you definitely don’t want your words to be redundant. 



6. You use bad fonts 

Titles should be big (32 points or more) 
Bullets can be smaller but still big enough for people in the back to read. 

  • Don’t mix more than 2 font types 
  • Avoid fonts that are hard to read and stick with the standard ones
  • Create color contrast between the text and the background
  • Don’t be weird




7. Your images suck 

Adding small low-res images is not going to make your slides look better.
Stretching an image to make it longer or wider might cause a distortion effect - which will immediately make your slide look unprofessional. 

Don’t do that. 




Here are a few quick tips when adding images to slides: 

  1. Always filter your search to large images 
  2. It’s usually better to use a full screen image that covers the entire slide than to spread smaller images randomly
  3. If you insist of adding few smaller images - make sure they are in the same size 
  4. Never change the proportions of your image - it makes it look cheap. 
  5. When using a small image such as a logo or an icon - they must have a transparent background 
Here are a few key tools to use (get familiar with them and it will save you a lot of time and problems):
  • Use PowerPoint’s Trim functionality to change your image shape without messing up the proportions. 
  • Use PowerPoint’s resizing options to ensure all elements have the same size
  • Use PowerPoint’s alignment options to ensure all images are aligned 
  • Use Powerpoint’s distribution options to ensure an identical distance between each image. 


8. Your other visuals suck too...

Charts, tables, screenshots of your software - you want your visuals to be accurate and detailed but when presenting in a conference - the audience cannot easily digest so many details. 

Use simple and clean visuals. Remove the numbers from your charts and make people remember the trend or 1 key number. 
Remove the details from your screenshot and highlight the feature you talk about. 
Replace those tables with… nothing actually, just get rid of those tables… 




9. You place elements randomly on your slides

Modern design uses exaggerated space and people love it.
It helps focusing on the important stuff and prevents overload. 

Add space to your slides, remove redundant elements or make them smaller to allow more space. 
Make sure items are centered and aligned to one another. 




10. You use stupid animations 

Animations exist to create motion.
If you use random animations just for the sake of decorating your slides with animations - you fail to create a flowing experience and practically ruin the presentation.
Weird animations are not natural and feel pretty dumb…
BTW, in most cases it’s simply better to remove all the animations than to use bad ones. 

Check out my mini-guide for creating simple, yet professional looking animation 



   How to create professional animation


11. Your don’t have a proper ending

Treat your presentation as a show!
A good show has a powerful opening and an even more powerful ending. 
Finish with a vision, a strong statement, something to be remembered by. 



12. You don’t rehearse enough

Want to be a great presenter? Practice again and again and again. 
And then, when you’re done practicing - start rehearsing in difficult conditions:

  • Standing 
  • With your back to the slides
  • In front of real people 


- - - 


So there you have it. 

12 reasons why your presentation didn’t look as good as Apple’s. I hope you find some of the tips useful and if not - let me know at @GilBouhnick.