Public Presentations Gone Wrong

I recently saw a presentation that was not great. The gentleman addressing our group was confident, spoke slowly, and knew his stuff. By all appearances he was an experienced speaker who had given public presentations multiple times. And yet his talk was tough to sit through. Here are a few reasons he was harder to follow than he might have realized:

1. He had tech issues

He had difficulty getting his PowerPoint to work right from the start. It seemed like he had not tested the A/V setup at the venue. His slide clicker wasn’t working, for example, so we spent the first few minutes watching someone try to figure out something that should have been ready to go. The glitches broke the flow and undermined his credibility.

2. He was too relaxed

The speaker carried a cocktail around on stage for a bit. It was an afternoon business networking event. I think he was trying to convince us to stick around for the post-presentation happy hour, but it seemed out of place. And once he couldn’t work the slides, I wondered if he might’ve had more than one drink. I’m joking (kind of), but it’s an interesting trap to fall into when someone is so opposite of nervous that they seem to not care.

3. He didn’t connect with his audience

Some speakers are great at going “off the cuff,” which means improvising or speaking extemporaneously. This individual tried some playful give and take, but we weren’t at a party or a casual event, so the most he accomplished was some awkward laughter. His attempt to loosen things up didn’t work. Then he switched tack and tried some crowd participation, but instead of asking how many of us in the room had used the product he was there to talk about, he asked how long we had used it. By show of hands. The majority of attendees were new to the product. Moreover, how do you explain how long you’ve used something with a hand raise?!

The interesting thing is that he knew his presentation so well that he took the overall execution of it for granted. His talk was smooth for the most part once it finally got going, but he could have easily been great. Instead, he became an example of what not to do, at least that day.

If only he had built his talk on the pillars of public presentations.

The 3 Pillars of Public Presentations

In coming posts, we’ll unpack the three critical parts you need to focus on when putting together a public presentation of any kind. Here’s the short version:

Pillar 1: Preparation – The Proper Mindset

Pillar 2: Practice – The Pro’s “Secret”

Pillar 3: Performance – The Promise Delivered

Preparation, Practice, and Performance are the pillars of presenting publicly. If you can nail these three aspects of this process you will give successful presentations. It may not be so easy, especially at first, but it really is that simple. Through thoughtful preparation and focused practice, anyone can pull off a solid performance whether your audience is a group of 5 or 5,000.

I hope you are constantly becoming more confident as a presenter, but if you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of having to talk in front of others, here is some good news: Two-thirds of the public speaking process happens in private. In my next post, I’ll begin leading you through those private moments of preparation and focus so you craft killer talks every time.


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