8 Presentation Mistakes to Avoid

By Amanda Bouch

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Do you want to be the one whose presentation stands out and gets the interest of your client?

Do you work hard at your PowerPoint deck but find the presentation falls flat?

Or perhaps you send PowerPoint decks out to be read by your client but get no response, and your proposal goes to the bottom of the pile?

Chances are you’re making mistakes in putting together your presentation.

When you want to convince the board to invest in your project or need them to sign off more resources, you have to make it easy for them.  When you are pitching for a new business or presenting as part of an interview process, you need to communicate your idea to be convincing. Your future depends on it.

Yet, too often, people approach presentations as simply a requirement to dump all they’re doing on a slide deck and hope that it hits the mark.

Check out these eight common mistakes and how to avoid them.

1.     You Don’t Have a Clear Goal

If you’ve been asked to put together a presentation, you may not be clear on what the purpose is. Or maybe you are not sure what you want from the opportunity to present.

Solution: The request to present or even to send a presentation to key stakeholders is an opportunity to influence. It’s never about just giving them some facts.


Always take the opportunity to influence your audience and be clear on what you want from this opportunity. What do you need them to decide to do?

2.     You Don’t Understand Their Agenda – What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)

If you haven’t done your research and found out what their situation is and what their priorities are, you can’t position your presentation to attract their attention. If you’re talking about a topic that is not aligned with their agenda, they will hardly listen or only skim-read the presentation. There is no chance of achieving your goal.

Solution: You need to understand the audience’s perspective: what are they worried about, and how does your idea help solve their problem?  If your message is not yet on their agenda, how can you raise their awareness and help them understand the issue in their own context?

3.     Your Presentation Lacks Structure

If you put every single detail down, nothing will stand out. People want the most important and relevant information to make a decision. It’s well known that our attention span is getting shorter, and as we multitask, we start to lose focus. Without logical structure, the audience is unlikely to want to work hard to understand your message.


You need to decide what information is necessary to achieve your goal and be in tune with the audience’s needs and interests. Work out where the audience is now (A) and where you want them to be at the end of the presentation (B).

Identify the steps they must take to get there.  Keep it simple!  You might be working on lots of interesting stuff. But if it doesn’t help them get from A to B fast, then ditch it.  Make sure your presentation has a logical flow that moves the audience smoothly along that path.

4.     Not Establishing a Motive

If you’re assuming they are interested, you’re wrong.  If your audience isn’t clear on why they should listen to you or read your presentation pack, they probably won’t.

Solution: Tune into their situation and identify the ‘pain’ or problem they are facing that your presentation addresses.  Then, paint a vivid picture of what life would be like with your solution /idea to enhance their desire and motivation.

When they can recognize their problem and you are offering a desirable solution, they will be motivated to pay attention.

5.      A Lack of Narrative

If you just present the facts, you are not offering anything to engage the audience.  You might provide all the relevant information, but you are leaving the audience to do all the work to decipher any meaning from the presentation.

Solution:  Use a structure that tells a story and takes the listener or reader with you. Stories have long been established as a great way to create meaning and share learning.

For example, Situation, Complication, Question, and Solution.

Introduce the situation. Then, an anecdote can illustrate the complication and provide evidence on why this is a problem that needs resolving. The question then sets up the solution required, and you go on to address the proposed solution at the end.

By asking a question for each stage in the argument, you evoke curiosity and keep the audience’s attention.

6.     No Call to Action

If you just present the data and don’t make it clear what you want your audience to do with this information, you have just lost your opportunity to influence any action.  Don’t assume they will come to the same conclusion as you.


Solution: You are giving this presentation because you want the audience to do something – that should be clear from your goal.  You know ‘WIIFM’ for the audience, so make your request in terms that will motivate them to take the action you’re seeking.

You might make this request during the presentation and ensure you make it again at the end.  Asking a number of times will not harm your cause, as not asking at all could mean nothing happens.

7.     Assuming Without Engaging

When you are making a face-to-face presentation, you waste an outstanding opportunity if you just stand before your audience and deliver what is on the slides.  If you don’t add value through your presence, why are you there?

Why have all these people been brought together when they could simply read your presentation when it suits them?  When you show a lack of confidence in presenting, your audience will assume a lack of confidence in the information.

Try: Engage with your audience and make your presentation personal.  Make eye contact with individuals and be sure to include the whole audience, not just the key decision-makers.  Use your delivery skills (voice, body language) to bring meaning to your message, emphasize key points, and lead the audience’s interpretation of the information.

If your presentation is only read, you need to work hard with the structure, language, and visuals to engage your reader.

Remember the mnemonic AIDA – this stands for Attract attention, raise Interest, stimulate Desire, and motivate Action.

Make sure your presentation is visually appealing and leads the reader along your desired path. The technique of putting the key message for each slide in the header is a good way of focusing the reader’s attention.

8.     No Follow-Up

The presentation is one opportunity to communicate. Rarely is once enough to convince people to take action.  Sales research indicates that 80% of decisions come after the fifth time of communication. If you assume this one exposure was enough, it is unlikely you will get the decisions and action you are looking for.

Try: When you make a face-to-face presentation, there will be questions. You can follow up with the audience afterward with more detailed responses or answers to questions you couldn’t or didn’t have time to answer on the day.


Look for opportunities to engage with your audience on other occasions. Send them new information that will help them in their decision-making (make sure you present it well; don’t just throw a lengthy article or report at them).

With a written presentation, you could follow up with an email asking if the reader wanted any further clarification or offering supplementary information. Offer to meet to talk it through or to have a telephone conversation if necessary.

This presentation is an important step in your project or pitch, and you will show your enthusiasm and conviction by following up.

Bring energy to your delivery to motivate the audience to pay attention and to want to take action.  If you lack confidence in speaking skills, I recommend Toastmasters International’s communication and leadership club. There are clubs all over the world, so you may find a club near you.

Using these eight tactics in crafting your presentation will help ensure your message stands out. The skills of powerful presenting and speaking are essential to ensure you are heard in a world where there is too much ‘noise.’

How Do You Create a Convincing Presentation?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Amanda Bouch
Amanda Bouch
Amanda Bouch founded ABC, a leadership and management consulting and coaching firm in 2002. Her expertise is built up over 20 years in facilitating people’s learning and development. She is an author and speaker on leadership and coaching. Follow Amanda on Twitter and Facebook.
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