Perhaps you were looking for a top 10 list? I’ve spent some time thinking about all of the technical presentations that I’ve given in the past and I was only able to come up with a list of nine really, really bad things that I’ve done over and over again. Let’s take a look at the bad habits that technical presenters make and, as a bonus, we’ll see if we can find ways to stop doing them!
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #1: Reading Your Speech.
I don’t care how technical the material that you are talking about is, you need to connect with your audience during your presentation and you won’t be able to do this if you are tied to your notes, your slides, or even a script. Instead, practice, practice, practice. Once you really know your material, then you’ll be able to deliver it without notes. Steve Jobs over at Apple does this and that’s why he is so good!
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #2: Poor Eye Contact.
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Well, you’ve got to be looking in those windows in order to be able to determine what is going on inside of your audience’s heads. Too many of us will spend an entire presentation looking at something, anything, else besides our audience. You need to consciously make an effort to make eye contact with your audience at least 90% of the time that you are speaking.
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #3: Dressing Badly.
As a speaker, you always want to be the best dressed person in the room. While you are speaking, your clothes will be speaking to the audience also. You want them to be saying that you are both successful and confidant. A good looking speaker gets the respect of the audience even before he/she opens their mouth. If you don’t feel confident selecting clothes, then get a friend or a salesperson to help you make the right decisions.
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #4: Bad Body Language.
While you are talking, your body may be having a conversation with your audience at the same time. If your hands are fumbling with a pen, coin, or a ring; or if you are pacing, swaying or other wise making movements that distract the audience from what you are saying, then you are sabotaging your own presentation. The best way to stop doing this is to practice in front of a mirror or videotape your practice. You just might be surprised at what you see!
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #5: Winging It.
If you feel that you know your material or your audience so well that a rehearsal is not needed, please print out the following words and place them on your desk where you can see them: “YOU’RE WRONG!” The first time that you give a presentation is the worst time that you give it. You just keep getting better each time you run through it. John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, spends countless hours practicing every part of every presentation. If a big & important guy like him is willing to spend the time, then why wouldn’t you?
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #6: Being Too Stiff.
This bad habit is in a fight with bad habit #4. Although you don’t want your body parts to flap around and distract from what you are saying, you also don’t want to be a statue – this will also distract from what you’re saying. If you assume a frozen position, then that will result in a boring presentation for your audience.
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #7: Shooting Your Audience w/ Bullets.
I’ve got great news for you – chances are that your audience can read! This means that if you spend your presentation reading bullets that are listed on a slide that everyone in the audience can read for themselves, then you will have done everyone a disservice. Remember the slides are there to serve the speaker, not the other way around.
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #8: Going On, And On, And On.
Although you may love to hear yourself speak, studies show that you’ll start to use your audience after about 18 minutes or so. One of the golden rules of presentations is that an audience will never hold it against you if you wrap up early; however, they’ll blame you if you take too long. This all gets back to practicing your presentation before you give it – trim it ruthlessly!
- Technical Presenter Bad Habit #9: Being Boring.
Your audience has other things that they could be doing instead of listening to you. You need to do something to grab their attention and make them care about what you are talking about. This means that you need to have a powerful opening that seizes their attention from the get go and a closing that wraps it all up.
There you go – a top 9 list of things that happen all to often when a technical presenter has bad habits. How many of this habits do you have? Have you ever been able to overcome a bad technical presentation bad habit? How did you do it? Leave a comment and let me know what has worked for you.