I watched a presentation a couple of weeks ago and it was terrible. I had seen this presenter a week or two earlier and it had been fine. But the second time it was very unprofessional and I tuned it out almost immediately. I don’t know if it had to do with the change in audience, but no matter who you are presenting to, please be professional. Here are some of the points I noticed about this presentation (and some others for good measure):
- “Umm…” – I don’t know how many times this person used it, but it was bad. If you need a quick filler for a second or two there is nothing wrong with taking a breath. You don’t have to use “umm” if you’re thinking of the next thing to say. Just breathe.
- Fidgeting or crossing legs while standing – I’ve seen a couple of young women who do presentations and they cross their legs while standing. Why? It’s different if you are seated or if you’re leaning on a desk (as in leading a discussion, such as a professor does), but it puts you off balance and it doesn’t look right. They look like shy school girls and that is NOT what you should be portraying while making a pitch.
- Microphones – If there is a microphone, you don’t have to use it, but at least acknowledge that it is there and then before presenting, ensure that you can be heard by everyone in the room. The example I will give is when someone was obviously not comfortable with using a microphone, so chose not to use it. But no one could hear her, so the host had to interrupt her and give her the microphone. I’m not keen on using one either, but I can project my voice over a lecture hall of 500 students. Trust me, I don’t need one.
- Practice – At this same event, there were 4 presenters and I would say that 3 of the 4 had done very little public speaking. If you are planning on being an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to make a lot of presentations whether you like it or not. That could be to a couple of people in a coffee shop or to a lecture hall full of people or on television. Even the ones that had been on television didn’t present all that well. They obviously hadn’t rehearsed what they were going to say, they couldn’t remember what was in their slides and paused a lot.
- Never admit – This goes especially for the young women. Never admit that you don’t know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Make a quick joke to diffuse the situation if something doesn’t go according to plan, but don’t make yourself look like an idiot.
- If you’re asking a question, ask a question – Again, this is for the women. The number of times I’ve seen women presenting who make statements as if they are asking a question is too many to count. It’s okay to ask questions, even “Does that make sense?” to get some acknowledgement from the audience. As a matter of fact, that’s good! But don’t make your voice go up at the end of the sentence as if asking a question if you’re not.
Sorry if these sound like they are being nasty, especially towards young women. I don’t profess to being a professional at public speaking, but I would hope that people would be aware of these, and if not, become so and correct them. Especially if you are going to be an entrepreneur, make sure that you can speak properly so that your pitch can be heard by those who need to hear it.