Do Your Presentations Lack Confidence? It’s Not You^* It’s Your Slides

Do Your Presentations Lack Confidence? It’s Not You^* It’s Your Slides
November 26, 2013

This article was originally posted to

do-your-presentations-lack-confidenceDo you hate presenting? Do you wish you were a more confident presenter? Have you spent time working on your breathing, nerves, or body language to try and improve how you present?

It probably didn’t work. You most likely still dislike presenting. You may feel like not presenting well is some sort of deficiency in your professional skill-set that’s somehow holding you back. Good news. It’s not your fault.

Why isn’t it your fault that you hate presenting? Because if your slides are full of bullet points nobody is paying much attention to you anyway. If your slides are full of bullet points, the damage has already been done. There’s very little you can do – your slides are undermining you:

Self-Explanatory Slides
If you can email your slide deck to somebody who wasn’t at your presentation (or put it on SlideShare) so that they can read through and see what they missed, your slides are self-explanatory. If your slides are self-explanatory, you (the presenter) aren’t necessary. If you are set up to fail, it’s no wonder you hate presenting.

Audiences Read but Don’t Listen
Audiences can’t read and listen at the same time, because there is only a single part of the brain processing language and it can’t do two things at once. Audiences assume that key information in text-heavy presentations is contained on the slides. So even if you elaborate on your slides, the audience will still just read the slides, then get irritated that you are taking too long. They’ll feel that they already read your main messages, and tune out. Things are really hard for presenters if the audience just ignore them to read the slides instead.

Negative Signals
When audiences see self-explanatory text-heavy slides, they assume the worst. An audience that’s expecting to be bored to tears tends not to give a presenter the benefit-of-the-doubt. If it looks like ‘Death by PowerPoint’, audiences aren’t happy.

Audiences that are bored by text-heavy or self-explanatory presentations give off negative signals to presenters. From how they sit, where they look, or what else they start to do. You – the presenter – can tell when your audience looks disinterested. That negative feedback – however subtle – makes it hard for a presenter to feel relaxed or positive. It doesn’t matter how your breathing or nerves are when you start – if you deliver tedious slides that your audience can read, they will start to look bored. Learning to ignore the audience’s frustration by breathing deeply and staying calm isn’t the same as becoming a good presenter.

Slides that Undermine Presenters
If your audiences jut read your slides, then wait impatiently for you to click to the next one, it doesn’t really matter how you are presenting. Nobody is paying much attention anyway. You could have just emailed your slides instead – it would have been quicker and easier for everyone.

If your slides are full of bullet-points, you would typically be better off without them. Text-heavy slides are usually worse than nothing, for presenters and audiences. If you are about to give a presentation with awful slides – just get rid of them. But, giving a speech without any sort of visual aid isn’t for everyone. Visual aids done right make it easier for presenters to get their message across.

Visual Aids not Visual Hindrances
Slides should contain visuals, not text. Slides should not be self-explanatory– they should work with the presenter not replace them. Slides should animate to help the presenter control the flow of information.

Having effective slides won’t make you a great presenter overnight. But having awful slides makes being a great presenter near-enough impossible.

If you want to become a better presenter, first get rid of your ‘visual hindrances’ and turn them into visual aids.

For more insights from the folks at BrightCarbon, check out their blog and follow them on Twitter @BrightCarbon.  

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