Most presentation experts would agree that it is important to have a strong opening to your business presentation. Your audience will give you five minutes or less (usually less) to determine if your presentation is worth listening to or not. They may not physically leave your presentation (that would be rude), but if your audience is unimpressed, disappointed, or annoyed, they will disengage mentally. Suddenly, their iPhone/BlackBerry or the doodling in their notepad becomes more important to them than what you’re presenting.
There are 13 early mistakes which could cost you your audience in the first 5 minutes of your PowerPoint presentation. In this article, I’ll cover the first seven mistakes:
- Technical difficulties: You and your audience are ready, but why aren’t the slides appearing or why isn’t the audio working? Delays caused by technical problems can cause you to quickly lose and never reclaim an audience. Leave nothing to chance.
- Bad delivery: One of the first things that audiences notice is the presentation style of the presenter. Even though your content may be interesting, a subpar delivery can turn off your audience. Be self-aware of any tendencies that you may have (e.g., monotone voice, no eye contact, speaking too fast, etc.) and try to start your presentation off in the right way.
- Lame presentation title: An uninspired, boring presentation title is like limping or falling out of the starting gates. Rather than being propelled into your presentation by curiosity, some members of your audience may automatically switch off with a weak or bland presentation title.
Stale presentation template: Your audience knows they’re in trouble when one of the standard, stale PowerPoint templates appears. PowerPoint Ninja research has shown stale presentation templates to be highly correlated with death-by-PowerPoint experiences.
- No agenda: Your audience needs to know where your presentation will take them. What topics will your slides cover? What will they get out of your presentation? If your audience perceives something of valuable is forthcoming, you will be able to capture and hold their attention.
- No opening hook: A hook is an effective method of grabbing the attention of your audience via humor, anecdote, fact, or quote. Without an interesting hook your audience may slowly drift into a PowerPoint coma.
Weak visuals: Your audience will judge the beginning of your presentation by the quality of the clip art, diagrams, and stock photos you use. Generic, unoriginal, or mismatched pictures can be a problem. The adage goes that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. If your pictures are only able to elicit a couple of words (“what the?!?” or “not again…”), then they could put your audience’s attention at jeopardy.
In my next post, I’ll cover the remaining six mistakes that can derail your presentation before you get anywhere.