November 8, 2016

5 Common Presentation Mistakes in the First 30 Seconds

We’ve all heard the saying, “You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This also rings true for presentations, yet it’s surprising how speakers tend to overlook it. They spend most of their time preparing the topic but when all is said and done, they haven’t given one thought about how to introduce it to the audience. A lot of people think an introduction is too time-consuming and it’s better just to go straight to the content. But if your content is dry to begin with, this could work against you. Easing into your presentation with a well-thought-out introduction is the best way to get your audience’s attention and make sure they aren’t nodding off before you’ve finished your first point.

In this day and age, where our average attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish, the first 30 seconds are crucial for keeping the audience engaged. Take time to prepare and rehearse your introduction and avoid common mistakes that speakers often make.

Here are 5 typical errors speakers make in presentations.

1. The intro that never ends

The best way to lose your audience is to talk continuously without arriving to a point. We’ve all experienced this. You start talking, lose track of where you were going and try to get back on track with even more talking. The audience is no longer focused on your presentation but instead on when you’ll come up for air!

Try taking a different approach. Start with a single, bold statement related to your topic. It could reference a statistic. “In the next 5 seconds, Company A will have made another $3,000.” You could also begin with a famous quote or mention current events. Any of these options could help you set a dramatic tone for your presentation. But remember, a little drama goes a long way.

2. “I’m sorry about…”

Never begin with an apology. It weakens your stance before you begin.

“I am sorry, I am getting over a cold, so my voice may be a little off.”

You come across as someone who gives excuses.

“I wanted to get copies of the status reports, but the printer…”

You’re just not prepared.

“I just found out about this presentation, so I didn’t have much time to prepare…”

Instead, take the focus off of you and start with a question. This provokes the audience to start thinking of a response. Make sure the question is specific, yet doesn’t require a simple yes or no answer. Be careful not to insult the audience’s intelligence or make negative assumptions. “How many of you are already counting down to lunch?”

3. “Have you heard the one about…?”

Humor in a presentation is great, but starting off with a joke could cause you to lose standing with your audience. They’ll see right through the comedy if it’s being used to cover up the fact that you’re unprepared. If you want to start off with a chuckle, try using an image, like a comic strip from a business magazine, which pertains to your topic. It will lighten up the mood so you can ease into your presentation.

4. Me, myself and I

Some speakers believe that boasting about themselves or their company is a good way to start a presentation, but they’d be wrong. This doesn’t mean you should never draw attention to yourself or your success. Telling a short anecdote from your past allows the audience to relate to you on a more personal level. For example, “I used to have a hard time speaking in front of people, until one day…” or “When I first started working in this field, it was a struggle.”  Your story should inspire, not alienate the audience.

5. Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3!

The worst way to begin a presentation is to check the sound equipment or deal with any technical issues. The sure signs of an amateur are when the speaker begins tapping on the microphone and asking the audience about the volume. Do this before everyone gets there. Not checking equipment beforehand can be considered unprofessional.

Bonus

If you struggle with nerves and need a little more time to gather your thoughts, try starting your presentation with a short video – no more than 30 seconds. The video should be relevant to your topic and set the tone for the rest of the presentation.

We hope this article has helped give insight into delivering your next presentation. Don’t forget to check back for upcoming blogs.

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