There have been countless articles written on the biggest mistakes we make when giving presentations. Rather than compile the same group of mishaps, we're going to debunk some myths that have been perpetuated over time.
Scan the audience
You may have heard that the best way to connect with audience members is to scan the audience. This behavior should, theoretically, ensure that you make some level of eye contact with everyone. In fact, scanning prevents you from engaging with anyone. Because eye contact is all about engagement, you want to make sure that you are always looking at someone when you are speaking. If your mouth is moving, you should make eye contact. With larger groups that might mean that you are looking at a cluster of people and they all feel like you are looking at them directly. This creates a high level of engagement with the audience and, for those who are a little less comfortable speaking to larger groups, it creates a dynamic where you are having a series of 1:1 conversations.
Gestures are distracting
We often hear people self-diagnose that they gesture too much. That is possible, especially if you are the sort of speaker who tends to talks with their hands. However, for most people, they actually gesture too little. Many talkers tend to rest their hands in front of them in closed positions which can render their hands useless for gesturing. Sometimes they are holding a slide advancer and set the empty hand on top of the one with the advancer. Or, they have their hands behind their back military style. Or, even worse, their hands are securely placed in their pockets because they simply don't know what to do with them. Gestures are powerful assets because they help you express yourself and help your audience follow along with your message. Using your hands to point to content on a slide or to count off items in a list is a great way to give your audience visual cues.
Move around like you're giving a TED Talk
While TED Talks are incredibly successful vehicles for sharing or gaining knowledge, the style of the talks is unique to the format. For most of us, walking around a stage or pacing around a room is very distracting to the audience. Movement is often effective and important for connecting with your audience but frequent, unintentional movement can make you seem nervous or give the impression of being a caged tiger. If you are someone who likes to move, make sure you are moving with purpose. Move across a stage to engage a different side of the room or walk to the other side of your presentation to spotlight content on the screen. Whenever you move, make sure to find a destination and then stay there for a bit before moving once again. Rapid or constant moving may work for neurotic comedians but won't play well with demonstrating your confidence during a presentation.
Pauses disengage your audience
Some speakers fear that if they pause too frequently or take too long of a pause that they will bore their audience or, even worse, completely disengage them. In fact, pauses are one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Pauses help in a number of ways, such as when you want to emphasize a point or when you've lost your place and need to recall content. Plus, if we are fast talkers, pauses give us a chance to take a breath and give our audience a little break to catch up! Most pauses are actually less than a second long and it would require a substantially-long pause before you would lose your audience or they would notice that you have stopped speaking.
Any of these skills can be developed through proper coaching and practice. Give Presentr a try!