11 things not to say in a presentation

Don't let cliché phrases ruin your speech

Losing a crowd is much easier than winning them over, writes Jeff Haden for LinkedIn Pulse.

The two most important things during a presentation are to be prepared and professional, but a few phrases can undermine that. Founder of TwitterCounter and The Next Web Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten details 11 expressions to avoid in the midst of professional speeches.

1. Don't make an excuse.

One in five conference presentations begins with an excuse, Veldhuijzen van Zanten says. Instead of explaining why you are tired, just give it your all instead. Drink an espresso and nix any sort of phrase where you apologize for being "jet-lagged" or "hungover," or make some claim like "they only invited me yesterday."

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2. Don't ask if attendees can hear you.

There are people to check the audio ahead of time, so there is no need to tap the microphone and inquire whether everyone in the back can make out what you are saying, according to Veldhuijzen van Zanten. If you are worried about it, check the audio beforehand.

If for some reason the audio stops working, calmly and discreetly request the moderator to check for you—while continuing to look confident and smile at the audience, he says.

3. Don't ask them to adjust the lights.

Being on stage means hot and bright lights—but the audience should not know that, Veldhuijzen van Zanten says. "Just stare into the dark, smile often, and act like you feel right at home," he says.

If you want to be able to see people speaking in the audience, talk with the lights crew ahead of time and ask them to raise the lights at a certain time.

4. Don't tell attendees you'll 'come back to that later.'

Embrace and enjoy the opportunity to interact with an audience member who is eager to learn, Veldhuijzen van Zanten urges.

"If someone is brave enough to raise their hand and ask you a question, compliment them and invite the rest of the audience to do the same," he says.

5. Don't explain you are answering the question.

Instead, preface your answer with, "I'll repeat that question first so everybody can hear it." This also gives you more time to think, Veldhuijzen van Zanten says.

6. Don't ask attendees if they can read the text on screen.

Slide text should be twice the size of the audience's average age. So if your crowd is 40, that font should be 80 points, Veldhuijzen van Zanten says. So rather than ask attendees, "Can you read this?"—just make sure they can while preparing your materials.

7. Do not read text aloud.

Never cram enough text onto a slide that the audience needs time to read it, Veldhuijzen van Zanten says. "The best way to lose your audience's attention is to add text to a slide...They stop listening to you" and start reading, he says.

8. Do not instruct the audience to stop writing information down.

Even if you are putting your presentation online later, many people use writing as a way to better remember new information. "Allow people to do whatever they want during your presentations," Veldhuijzen van Zanten says.

9. Do not ask the audience to turn off their devices.

Attendees may want to tweet quotes or facts during your presentation, although they may also want to browse Facebook. "Demanding attention doesn't work. Earn attention instead," Veldhuijzen van Zanten says.

10. Do not promise to keep it short.

The audience set aside time to attend; they do not mind if it is under time or not. Instead say something along the lines of, "This presentation is scheduled to take 30 minutes, but I'll do it in 25 minutes so you can go out and have a coffee earlier than expected."

11. Do not go over time.

Never wind up saying, "What, I'm out of time?" Veldhuijzen van Zanten warns. Going over time means you did not prepare well enough. Aim to end five minutes early and use the leftover period for questions.

"Giving an audience five minutes back earns their response and gratitude. Taking an extra five annoys and alienates them," he says (Haden, LinkedIn Pulse, 5/2).


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