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



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 some do’s and don'ts when preparing a presentation:

1. You start your preparations too late 

You are a busy individual with a successful career but when you stand on that stage you are all alone and exposed.
Do yourself a huge favor: prepare yourself.
I usually start preparing my slides 4 weeks in advance 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 to impress with their presentations simply because they didn’t invest enough time.


2. You don’t spend enough time planning

Don’t just throw your slides in there. Plan:
  1. The message you want to deliver
  2. The sub-messages
  3. The opening
  4. The main workflow
  5. 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. Once you start designing your slides - your energy will be spent on the technical work, so make sure to do the creative work beforehand. 
  

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 will probably lose most of them, and that’s before getting to the good stuff.
Make sure your opening is strong and supported by the first few slides that look absolutely amazing.
Also, practice a lot more on your opening words.

Pro tip: a smooth start will give you the energy boost and confidence you need. If needed, write down your opening words, learn and memorize them. 

4. You get lazy with your slides

Good presentations need visually appealing slides.
(TL;DR: 2007, iPhone, aesthetics, it’s all in the packaging… you know the drill)
You want your presentation to shine and 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 momentum.

presentation tips - audience attention span

Pro tip: in certain parts of your presentation, consider using a sequence of 5-6 slides with one word per slide. Such a sequence can be used to support a story, an insight, a joke or a takeaway. Use bold colors, place the word in the middle of the slide and make sure to run through the sequence quickly.   

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 from a slide loaded with text is not fun, and steals away the attention.
Replace the text with an image next to a few words.
The missing text should be spoken by you and you definitely don’t want your words to be redundant.

Presentation tips: To create great looking slides, turn long sentences into short bullets
Pro tip: treat your bullets as microcopy: turn long sentences into short ones. Then turn each sentence into a word or two. 

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 a color contrast between the text and the background
  • Don’t use italic style. 
  • Don’t be weird

Presentation tips: don't use too many fonts

Pro tip: don’t ever use a custom font in a presentation. If the computer that runs all the slides doesn’t have that custom font installed, all the labels will change font automatically resulting in unexpected layout problems 

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7. Your images suck 

Adding small low-res images is not going to make your slides look better. Use high res images instead.
Stretching an image to make it longer or wider will cause a distortion effect - which will immediately make your slide look unprofessional.
Don’t do that.


Presentation tips: turn small, low-res images, into large, full screen background images

Here are a few quick tips for adding images to slides:
  1. Always filter your web search to large images (low res images look blurred)
  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 on adding a few smaller images - make sure they are in the same size 
  4. Never change the proportions of your images - it makes them look distorted and cheap
  5. When using small images (logos or icons) - make sure they 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. 
Presentation tips: keep an eye on the image proportions

And here are a few good places to find brilliant images for free:

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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 labels and numbers from your charts and make people remember the trend or just a few key numbers.
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…

Presentation tips: focus on the message and get rid of the details
Nobody cares about the actual numbers, highlight the trend 


9. You place elements randomly on your slides

Modern design uses exaggerated whitespaces and people love it.
It helps to focus on the important stuff and prevents overload.
Add whitespace to your slides, remove redundant elements or make them smaller to allow more space.
Make sure items are centered and aligned with one another.
Take a look at each slide from a distance and if it seems cluttered - turn it into 2 slides or even more.

Presentation tips: don't throw elements randomly on the slide

Pro tip: here’s a comprehensive list of 40 UI rules that can be applied when designing your slides. 


10. You use stupid animations 

Animations exist to create motion.
If you use random animations just for the sake of decorating your slides - you fail to create a flowing experience and practically ruin the presentation.
Weird animations are not natural and feel pretty dumb.
Check out my mini-guide for creating simple, yet professional looking animation
If you don’t feel confident enough creating professional motion in your slides - don’t. Slides with 0 animations can look elegant and professional.




11. You 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.

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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+ things to improve on your next presentation.
Would love to hear your feedback and your own tips.

Follow me on twitter @GilBouhnick or subscribe to my occasional blurbs and thoughts by joining my mailing list.



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