1. "I know I'm all over the place."
Do not own that! Do not give voice to or breathe life into that kind of assessment of your presentation. When you say this, you make it clear that you know you have let down your audience; you know you have not done the best job you can to facilitate a positive experience for your audience. Furthermore, if you know you can be "all over the place" when facilitating a presentation, training, or demonstration, then be proactive; take a minute to craft an agenda or a quick list of headlines beforehand, and follow them. It does not have to be anything fancy or elaborate.
Here’s what I mean: You already know what you plan to cover, right? All you need are ...
... the 3 to 5 bullets you intend to discuss. Jot them down, then tell your listener(s) your agenda as you start or use your headlines throughout the presentation. This way, they are prepared for what's to come and do not have to chase your ideas like scrambling after marbles dropped onto a hard surface. The bonus here is not only does it help the audience easily follow your thoughts, but it also keeps you on track and makes you appear prepared and poised.
It looks like this: "Thank you for joining me. Today, I will cover X, Y, and Z. Let's get started."
After you cover X, say, "We just covered X. It is important because .... Now let's move on to Y." (Always review what you covered, give the big view of how that agenda item fits into the overall picture/presentation objective, and preview your next agenda item—what you are about to cover. Do this to reduce the likelihood of your listeners getting lost in the sauce.)
2. "I'm sorry; I know that's a lot of information." (This statement is usually accompanied by a soft chuckle or a slight smile from the presenter.)
This negatively impacts your overall presentation performance in a number of ways.
First, you said this because you know you did something wrong. (Isn't that when you usually hear "I'm sorry" from someone—when that person made a misstep?) You said "I'm sorry" because you know you slipped-up and delivered an information dump, which is wholly ineffective.
Second, the statement adds nothing of value to your presentation and calls attention to a lack of preparation. You should not have to offer up apologies if you planned and then delivered an exceptional experience, right?
Third, the statement does not make you or your presentation appear impressive. Be honest; when you say "I'm sorry; I know that's a lot of information," you really are not feeling apologetic for what you did. The fact is you want them to embrace the "a lot of information" part because you think this flood of information makes you look impressive—subconsciously or otherwise. You want to come off as really knowledgeable by dumping all that information on your listener(s). "I'm sorry; I know that's a lot of information" is code for "Wowee! Look at me! And look at how much I know!" which—newsflash!—is in no way remarkable (in a good way) to your audience.
Finally, no one wants "a lot of information," which equates to an information dump. Your audience does not want to drink from a firehose when you present. It wants to take manageable sips, receiving chunks of information at reasonable intervals with opportunities to think about what that information means and how they can use it. What your audience wants is an organized presentation of content that anyone can easily follow and remember after your presentation has concluded. Forbes senior contributor, Carmine Gallo reminds us that "any opportunity to face an audience is an opportunity to lift them to another level ...." To dump disorganized loads of information does not lift your audience to another level.
What do you do instead? Easy. First, stop saying "I'm sorry; I know that's a lot of information," and see number 1 above.
3. "I don’t know if you use X" or "I don't know if you've seen Y."
There is a couple of ways to address this ... well really only one way ... but journey with me ...
If you truly are curious as to whether the audience has used or seen something, then you can ask, "Have you used X" or "Have you seen Y?" If the answer is "no" in either instance, then provide the foundational knowledge necessary before moving forward. If the answer is "yes," then proceed but only if everyone responds with a "yes." Do not be tempted to plow ahead if you get a few affirmative responses. You know you've seen it before: The presenter is usually looking for at least one head nod, and that ostensibly grants him/her permission to head off to the races with no regard for anyone who did not respond or who responded with a "no."
However—and watch out because this is where we confirm there is really only one way to address this—make no assumptions, and do not ask if the audience has seen or used X or Y. Here's why: Even in this age where more and more people are perfectly comfortable with speaking up, you will still have at least in the audience who will not admit to not having X or having not seen Y due to one reason or another—general embarrassment, fear of ridicule from teammates who may think the audience member should be in the know, et cetera.
Therefore, do not say "I don’t know if you use X" or "I don't know if you've seen Y." Do not ask "Have you used X" or "Have you seen Y?" Simply give an overview of X or Y to ensure everyone is on the same page.
4. I know you can't see this slide.
If the audience cannot see the slide's contents, then why is the slide part of your presentation? Fast Company explains it best: When you announce to the audience you know the slide contents are difficult to discern, you declare "... that you didn’t do your job .... This cuts into your credibility as someone who can create high-quality work. But the bigger mistake is that you're admitting you know that you created subpar content, but you decided to inflict it on your audience anyway. How should that make them feel?"
Always make font selections and use font sizes that are easy for the audience to read. Avoid fancy, flowery fonts or the inclusion of complicated charts and graphs without directing the audience's attention.
Fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Times New Roman work well. Titles should be at least 32- to 40-point size font, and the contents on the slide should appear in at least 28-point size font.
When you have complicated charts or graphs or ones that have very small details, then direct the audience's attention by enlarging the portion of a chart or graph on which you want the audience to focus. You can place a circle or a square around the pertinent information or have an animated arrow point to the data you want to highlight. Always ensure it is large enough for the audience to see what you need everyone to see.
To confirm if your audience will be able to see any slide's contents, print the slide (not the handout but the actual slide that covers the full extent of an 8.5x11 sheet of paper) and place it on the floor. If you are able to easily read it from a standing position, then the slide is designed well enough for your information to reach your audience's eyes.
You've got this!
Photograph credit: Pexels
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