Did your last presentation leave your colleagues rubbing their eyes and chugging coffee? During your time at the front of the room, did your voice sound a lot like when an adult talked in the old Peanuts cartoons? Then your presentations are putting your audience to sleep—and your professional reputation is taking a hit in the process.
The ability to communicate verbally, including those seemingly hard-to-achieve presentation skills, is something employers want in employees. Even if you don’t enjoy it, your career will benefit if you become a better presenter.
There are a few simple reasons why your presentations might be putting people to sleep. Here’s what could be happening and how you can put a stop to it:
No presentation is more soul killing than one in which the speaker themselves isn’t interested in what they’re presenting. If you’re bored while you give your presentation, your audience will be bored too.
Even if your topic secretly doesn’t thrill you, fake it ’til you make it—act like it does so that the people in the room are more engaged by your presentation. If it’s a dull topic, spend extra time preparing a quality presentation that you’re excited by and you’re more likely to captivate your audience.
One trick is to make your presentation more interactive so it’s as much the audience’s responsibility to keep a lively conversation going. Ask people questions, devise a hands-on exercise, give a pop quiz with prizes, or break out into groups to brainstorm new ideas and solutions.
Some people are just not cut out for center stage. You’re shy. You’re soft spoken. You prefer to be behind the scenes. You’re not cool. Public speaking makes you nervous.
Stop it. All that negativity is self-fulfilling. The more you tell yourself those things, the more you’ll believe and become those things. Instead, tell yourself you can do it and eventually, with some work, your presentation skills will improve over time.
To start, curtail your monotone and put some pep into your speaking voice. Use vocal inflections and emphatic body language to bring energy into the room. Get psyched to give a presentation that no one can sleep through.
Your slides are ugly
PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi, for that matter) is just a tool. It’s up to you to use the tool well. The easiest way to boost your slides is to add interesting images that reinforce what you have to say, steering clear of tacky clip art and cheesy stock photos.
If you’re required to use your agency’s ugly PowerPoint template, do the best you can to minimize the ugly. Use fewer words on each slide. Make the font bigger. Push the limits of the template to make your slides more beautiful. Browse through Slideshare for inspiring presentations like those by Eugene Cheng, SlideComet, and the classic “You Suck At PowerPoint” by Jesse Desjardins.
Before you use bullet points, ask yourself: Do I want people to hate my presentation? If your answer is “Yes, I’m a misanthropic sadist,” then by all means use bullet points. But, if the answer is no, avoid bullet points like Neo in The Matrix.
Calm down, you’re not ugly. You’re fly. But, what is unattractive in a presenter is a lack of confidence.
If you’re not confident, you can make people uncomfortable and you may lose their trust. They’ll avert their eyes from your awkwardness so they don’t need to bear witness to your discomfort. They’ll welcome any distraction, including sleep.
Exude confidence and people will be more inspired by you and what you have say. This confidence comes from being prepared and by following these tips for being a confident pubic speaker. And, believe in this mantra by Stuart Smalley, one of Al Franken’s characters from Saturday Night Live:
That daily affirmation must work—after all, he’s now a U.S. Senator.