Every entrepreneur needs to present at some point. From apologies to information overload, a primer on what not to do.
As you grow your company, you will find yourself standing in front of an audience more often. After all, you are the best person to take your message to the masses: You feel the most passion for what you do and you understand the strategic vision to move your company forward.
While it's important to think about what you should do when presenting, it's just as important to consider what you should not do. In fact, perfecting your presentation skills is very much about what you consciously choose not to do. Here are five common mistakes new presenters make that you should avoid.
By far, the new presenter's most distracting habit is the use of filler words. Many people automatically think of "um," but there are many, many more. A filler word is any word that is unnecessary to the point you are trying to get across or is repeated throughout your presentation to the point of distraction. The use of filler words can be so distracting that your audience may completely miss the point.
Almost everyone has a go-to filler word. The filler word I used the most when I first started presenting was "right," and I recognized it pretty easily. Recently, my filler word of choice is "so," which is more easily overlooked. I have to concentrate much harder to self-edit "so."
The best way to find out yours? Record yourself. If you can't do that, ask audience members to tell you if you have any words that clutter your speech.
Reliance on Slides
You should never compete with your slides for the spotlight. Your audience's attention should be on you or on your presentation. Resist the temptation to point at your slides, and if you do, then give your audience ample time to read what's there--don't read the slides to your audience.
Your slides should contain simple imagery and include only the key points or statistics you need to provide back up for what you are saying. I completely avoid animation, but if you choose to use it, use it sparingly.
The human brain can only keep up with five things, give or take two. That's why I am happy if my audience walks away from my presentation with just one or two key messages.
I focus on making sure my audience gets the "big ideas." The best way to do that is to encapsulate those ideas in a story. It's true that turning your points into a catchy phrase might help aid memory, but I have found it's a few points, delivered in a carefully crafted story, anecdote, or joke that will stay with your audience long after you step off the stage.
Never, ever apologize for missing something in your presentation. The secret is that your audience probably doesn't know that you missed something and apologizing doesn't help.
This rule also applies to your slides. If you notice a misspelling or other issue with your slide, don't point it out. Those in the audience who have caught the mistake have already caught it--pointing it out doesn't fix the problem and will only highlight it for others in the audience who haven't noticed. Your audience is rooting for you, they want you to be successful. Use that momentum to move forward and don't sabotage yourself.
Too Much Talking
The most impactful thing you can do while presenting is to simply stop talking. Take the time to pause--it gives your words space and the time to sink in. The best speakers use space and cadence to connect with their audience. What feels like an eternity to you on the stage is merely a moment to your audience and they need this time to absorb what you are saying. The quiet gives their brains time to catch-up before you move on to your next point.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the “whys” of business – why customers buy, why teams work and the all-important “entrepreneurial why”. He is the author of Laddering and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. Learn more about Eric at www.ladderingworks.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. @eholtzclaw