The Seven Deadly Sins of Presentations

Every day, so many tens of thousands of innocent clients and employees are bored to tears by presentations that it ought to be considered a crime against humanity.

Are your presentations guilty of the following sins?

  • Illegibility. Know the size of the room, screen and audience before you create a presentation. The person at the back of the crowd should easily be able to read your slides. If he or she can't, they're going to tune out. Pick a clearly readable font that's large enough for the potential decision maker at the back of the room to read. And make sure to keep your slide backgrounds simple and clean.

  • Information Overload. Presentations are supposed to support what you're saying, not tell the whole story. Otherwise, why should people listen to you? Use the outline of your presentation to pick and choose the main points on the screen. If you are going over a complex document, give your audience a handout to which they can refer.

  • Bullet Point Abuse. Slide after slide of bulleted text will have your audience sliding into REM. Break up the text with an image, video, chart or other illustration that is relevant and that will crystallize your main point.

  • Lost in the Wilderness. In longer presentations, take the time to put information into context. As you complete each section, flash back to the bigger picture for a moment so the audience knows how all the information fits together. This will also keep your presentation on track because if you can't fit a section into the bigger picture, it doesn't belong there.

  • Selfishness. In sales presentations, it's easy to slide into the trap of telling talking about your product or service, instead of what it will do for your customer's lives. Internal presentations, be they about sales activities or manufacturing output, should also take their audience's concerns into consideration.

    In presenting to your boss, keep the goals he's set for you and the bigger picture in mind. In presenting to staffers, reinforce the positive reasons why they should be paying attention.

  • Poor Branding. Using a template, especially one that is at odds with your corporate branding, will make it hard for people to recall who presented what, especially if you're competing for attention. Make sure the design, layout, colours and font used in your presentation could only have come from your company.

  • Copyright Violation. Sure it's tempting to grab a graphic from a Google Image Search, scan a Dilbert cartoon or use a track from your favourite music CD to spice up your presentation, but guess what? It's illegal. Even if you're only putting together an internal presentation: if you didn't commission the material you wish to use or get it from a royalty free source that allows business use - it's against the law to include it.

    You might not get a knock on your door from Sony music or Scott Adams (the guy that writes Dilbert), but if your boss or client is sensitive about protecting intellectual property and is reasonably savvy, you could (at best) end up embarrassing yourself and at worst lose a major account.

  • If you find it difficult to bring your presentations over from the dark side, consider enlisting the services of a professional. K Lorette Communications has years of experience in copywriting, graphic design and in working with PowerPoint. For a complete list of services and rates, visit her web site:

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