Five presentation mistakes to avoid

Giving a presentation can be daunting. However, whether you are presenting to the director of a car dealership in Sheikh Zayed Road, or talking to a roomful of delegates at a conference, if you avoid these common presentation mistakes, you’re more likely to succeed.



Are you terrified of giving a presentation? Relax you are in good company….

Mumbling is a cardinal sin when giving a presentation. If you start to mumble you will quickly lose your audience’s interest. They’ll start looking around for something else to fill their time – like their smartphone, documents, staring out of the window or looking around the auditorium. If you are speaking to a large crowd in an auditorium it is too easy for an individual to stand up and walk out. And once one person has done it, others will follow.

The trick is to keep your voice interesting and loud enough for people to hear you (but don’t shout – unless it’s to make a particular point). Whether it’s a presentation to a new client, a packed university hall, or a small conference room, your voice is the strongest ally you have in making your presentation successful. Interesting speakers don’t keep the same tone or pace when giving presentations. They mix it up to keep the audience engaged.


The opposite of mumbling is talking so quickly the audience doesn’t have time to absorb the essentials, never mind your carefully worked out nuances. Understanding how to pace yourself when talking to a group of people is a core presentation skill. If you feel yourself speeding up, take a breath, pause and then continue. Pausing is a great way of grabbing the attention of the audience. If they are beginning to lose focus, your silence will make them tune back in to what you are saying, or rather not saying. You’ll discover that pausing also gives people a moment to allow important points sink in. When practicing your presentation, consider how to use silence to drive home specific points you feel people may otherwise miss.


Don’t drift off topic, unless you’re absolutely certain you know what you’re doing: because your audience has a finite amount of patience and if you can’t bring it back to the presentation, they’ll feel you are wasting their time and don’t know what you’re talking about.

Have some notes to keep you on track and don’t deviate too far from them. However, don’t spend your entire time looking at your notes. People like to feel a connection with a speaker, and if you are always looking down, you can’t make the all-important eye contact to people in the room.

Turn around

And while we’re thinking about looking down, don’t spend your entire time looking at the PowerPoint behind you. Remember, people don’t warm to a person’s back; they warm to a person’s face. It’s fine to turn to the screen behind you to make a particular point, but for the most of the time face forward and engage with your audience.

Winging it

For some people the thought of having to practice their presentation is daunting; so they wing it. And, unless it’s something they’ve presented frequently, the audience can tell.

You’ll commit all the mistakes listed above, and then some. You’ll drift, you’ll refer to the screen behind you too much, probably mumble when you lose sight of where you should be, and most definitely wont pace yourself properly.

Even if you’ve been landed the job the day before, spend whatever time you have available to prepare a proper presentation. Remember, you are taking up people’s time and they’ll be more open to what your are talking to them about if they feel you’ve made time to make it interesting for them.

If you’ve never given a presentation before, or are naturally quiet, ask a member of your team, or someone at home, to listen to it beforehand and give you feedback. You only get one chance to shine when presenting, so practicing beforehand is essential.

If you’re unsure of how to present, or want to improve your presentation skills, book a place on our Presentation Skills workshop today: /courses/presentation-skills/index.php


steve jobs

His legacy may be technology but he was also a brilliant presenter...

Being a great speaker doesn’t come naturally to most people. Even the experts speaking at conferences at the Madinat Arena, Dubai or the Trade Centre, only achieved their smooth patter by following the basic tenants of presenting. These are essential whether you are presenting to a small group or a large auditorium.

Make it interesting

A great presentation can win new clients and wow audiences. Yet many people fail to consider how to make their presentation interesting – ending up with a bored and distracted audience. Not sure what makes a boring presentation? Well the shy trickle of people leaving by the side exit is a clue, or people surreptitiously texting while you’re talking.

So do your research and make your presentation compelling.

Know your facts, but don’t read them off in a list, find something engaging about each one. Another interest killer is hearing old facts rehashed. If you are presenting old ideas justify and explain why they’re still relevant, show your audience why they should re-evaluate their pre-conceptions.

The same goes for new ideas, don’t just spout off what the latest guru says about a theory, or manufacturer says about a product. Put some time into finding out why the new is necessary and give your own opinion on its relevancy to your audience.


The first time you run through your presentation should not be in front of your intended audience – because this is the time when you notice what’s wrong with your presentation.

You get a feel for whether you are using the right language, whether what you written actually makes any sense, and whether it sticks to the intended timescale – if you’ve been given ten minutes your audience wont appreciate you keeping them for twenty.

Practice is crucial for helping you develop your own style. Some people find they are innately brash and loud, some have conversational tone, and others are more scholarly in their approach. All these elements can be helpful but if you keep to one style only you are limiting how effective your presentation can be. Learn how to modulate your voice to emphasise certain points, take pauses to allow particular points sink into the minds of your audience, raise your voice to wake the crowd up, and learn how to use a smile to engage people.

If you’re having trouble visualising yourself talking in front of an audience, check out the TED talks online. Here you’ll find some of the very best speakers in the world.


It’s pointless presenting anything, whether or not it’s well researched and exhaustively practiced, if the tone and style don’t fit your target audience. Consider the type of people who are coming to watch you. Are they hoping to find out the details of new product prototype? Or are you giving an in depth analysis of current customer trends? Is the intended audience more likely to respond to high visuals and low text, or vice versa?

Knowing what will elicit the best response from your audience lies at the heart of great presentations. If your audience are mainly experts in their field, they’ll expect you to talk to their level, and will switch off if they feel you’ve dumbed it down for them. The same is true for a group of new-comers. If you fill your presentation with lots of industry jargon and ideas, they will walk away from the presentation feel no wiser, and probably dispirited.

It’s your job as a presenter to pitch your presentation perfectly to educate and excite your audience.


It’s really off-putting watching someone visibly squirming with nerves while presenting. An audience may be so involved in watching the presenter stutter and bumble, that they don’t hear a word, or watch any of the presentation itself.

If you do struggle with nerves practice taking deep breathes and slow down your presentation. Both techniques help calm to the nerves. Have a bottle of water handy as well; nerves make your mouth dry.

Presenting like a pro is something that is only accomplished through practice. To learn more about this essential sales skill, visit / and sign up for our presentation skills course.

Many of us work in a challenging environment and it seems that challenge begins when we walk into the office space. If we have reached the upper echelons it may be that we have our own clearly defined workspace but the vast majority are fixed in a cubicular world which mimics early psychological experiments. It’s a wonder we don’t implode, it’s amazing we are actually productive.

Edward Hall regarded by some as the great grandfather of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coined the term “proxemics”. This describes the space in which we feel comfortable in different contexts. With a large part of our lives spent at the office having space invaders encroaching on our spatial limits can impact on our performance. With cubicle space rapidly decreasing by as much as 50% in urban areas to increase cost efficacy environmental stress can have long reaching impacts on employee health, productivity and inter-cultural relations. Overcrowding in the animal kingdom leads to aggression and territorial tension but in the office do the polychrones inadvertently wind up the monochrones by borrowing ‘personal’ items and multitasking?

Space to think concentrate or think creatively is lacking in most office environments and whilst some are able to zone out and accept differences others can obsess on them seeking quieter spaces to perform. Personalisation of spaces, creation of physical barriers or feng shui may provide some cognitive solace against the shrinkage of personal space but ultimately we may be slaves to primal evolutionary forces. Research from Caltech shows that the amygdaloid region of the brain may hold the key as to why we maintain spatial distance from people, it indicates that this region is active during romantic approaches but also influences our fear response and holds emotional memory. One subject with damage to this region had no concept of personal space.

Creation of our own ‘personal bubble’ may not translate however across inter-cultural divides. Dubai is an extremely multi-cultural work environment, in the workplace you will hear different languages and experience different smells, tastes, dress, intonations, work ethics and cultural space boundaries. The question is whether you recognise them for what they are or react with your own defences seeing intrusion as a threat.

Edward Hall wisely said : We should never denigrate any other culture but rather help people to understand the relationship between their own culture and the dominant culture. When you understand another culture or language, it does not mean that you have to lose your own culture.

“Oral delivery aims at persuasion and making the listener believe they are converted. Few persons are capable of being convinced; the majority allow themselves to be persuaded.” Goethe.

Unless you wave your arms around and alter the tone of your voice like Obi Wan Kenobi or can control minds like Professor Xavier, it may be that you need a few tips in the art of persuasion. As with most conversations in life if you listen to your audience and understand their motivations first, then you can offer solutions and a different perspective.

We have all sat through dull presentations, slide after slide delivered with all the passion of a stuffed animal. As an audience we try in vain to signal our disinterest flicking through material, checking our messages, shifting in our chairs. We really do want to be enlightened; after all we have given up our valuable time to be there. All too often the presenter forgets that as the audience the presentation should be all about us and not about them, their accomplishments, their company or their product. Of course it is about those things but if you fail to engage and involve the audience and listen to them you might as well pack up and go home.

The skill of being able to present yourself or your company in a professional, memorable and persuasive way does not come easy to most and needs practice and refinement to achieve objectives. If you have to speak at meetings and conferences; put up a case to the board; communicate company policy; pitch to prospective customers or carry out business development responsibility then you need to be able to persuade. A persuasive presentation normally starts with a story, statistics or facts to gain our attention from the beginning, connects the content with our needs and involves us, the audience, in developing a solution. However, when developing your persuasive presentation you need to first focus on analysing the audience. Ask yourself these questions to get you started:-

  • “Why should they care?” or “What’s in it for me? (WIIFM)”
  • “What motivates the audience?”
  • “How much do they already know?”
  • “What biases might they have?”
  • “What interests do they have? Do members of the audience have conflicting interests?”

Thinking about these and embedding them into your presentation will persuade the audience you are there for them. Even Steve Jobs started somewhere, here he is persuading us to buy Mac’s in 1984 and he is still persuading us today.

If you are interested in developing your presentation skills please contact ISM Training, Dubai for further information on our public and in-house courses.