Bad presentations are painful—for both the presenter dying a slow death in front of a crowd and the bored audience members who have to sit through it. If your task is to create or deliver presentations that don't suck, here are five common presentation pitfalls to avoid and tips on making presentations that can instead inspire and inform.
What is a sucky presentation?
We all know the classic signs and symptoms of a presentation flop—it feels like it's running on too long and you're wasting your time (either as the presenter or an audience member). At their core, sucky presentations fail to resonate with the audience, and therefore they fail in their mission to persuade or teach.
Anyone can learn to make better presentations
It's easy to blame the tools. Vast libraries of awful clipart and boomerang animations don't help anyone. It's also easy to convince yourself that giving presentations just isn't your thing. But we all have to present at some point or another, whether you're asking for a raise or presenting a proposal to a client. That said, most people haven't studied presentation design or how to communicate effectively.
So I talked to someone who has. Nancy Duarte and her amazing Duarte design firm have created over a quarter of a million presentations in the last 23 years (they're the group that helped Al Gore develop "An Inconvenient Truth," and they also support several TED and PopTech conferences). Duarte says that we've definitely reached a tipping point in the last few years when it comes to presentation design: audiences want more and expect more from us as presenters. The good news is it's not hard to learn some basic principles.
At Duarte workshops, attendees re-sketch slides—offline, without PowerPoint getting in the way—to learn things like arranging things in a grid and creating contrast and emphasis. Here are a few "before" slides that I've gathered from around the web as examples of what not to do.
Problem 1: Too many ideas on one slide
Some presenters put everything on a slide to help them remember what they need to say, Duarte says, forgetting that you could use slide notes instead. Dense, document-like s...