9 things you should never say in your presentation
Think back over the presentations you have sat through.
You’ve probably heard someone say, “Excuse me if I seem nervous,” “I haven’t
had a lot of time to prepare” or, perhaps, “You probably can’t read this,” in launching a parade of blurry slides.
If you have, you can probably recall little else about that presentation.
These are common expressions that can
ruin presentations. Here are nine more phrases presenters should
“You won’t need to make notes.”
This line is usually followed by “the presentation will be online later.”
There’s nothing wrong with posting your presentation online, but if all the
information the audience needs is on those slides, they might as well save
some of their precious time and just wait for it to go live.
Good presentations do not feature text heavy slides—and no-one ever went to
a presentation hoping to hear someone read aloud. Restrict slides to a
supporting role and engage your audience with your thoughts and ideas.
Allow them to make as many notes as they like.
“I’ve got a lot of information to cover.”
This is a presentation killer and instantly evokes thoughts of information
overload and boredom among the audience—not a great start.
Even if your audience is fully engaged they are not going to remember most
of what you say. If your presentation does contain a lot of information,
you need to go back to the editing stage, sharpen your pencil and focus on
one key message you want people to take away.
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“Time’s running out, so I’ll get through the rest quickly.”
This smacks of a lack of preparation and poor time management, and it is
not going to leave a good impression with your audience. They also likely
to be left wondering what they would have gotten from the rest of the
presentation if it had been given the time it deserved.
Audiences typically become restless, distracted and uneasy when there is
any suggestion that proceedings are overrunning—particularly if you are
speaking before a break or at the end of the day. Even if could rush
through what remains of your presentation, their attention is likely
“I think I’ve bored you enough.”
Hopefully your presentation has been interesting and insightful, in which
case why leave the audience with a negative connotation?
If it really has been boring, is it really necessary to point it out?
There are much more effective and stylish ways to bring your presentation
to a close, such as producing a brief summary of the key points, referring
back to a question you may have asked at the start, encouraging action or
drawing in an inspirational quote.
“I’d like to tell a story.”
Stories and anecdotes are a great way to illustrate your messages and make
them relatable, but they don’t need to be announced with a ‘let me tell you
a story’ type phrase.
You want your presentation to sound natural, not rehearsed and robotic.
Think about how you would bring in stories to a conversation with family
and friends and adopt a similar approach.
6. “As I’m sure you know…”
Assuming knowledge is a quick way to lose your audience. If people can’t
follow what you are saying their attention will rapidly move elsewhere.
You are the expert in this situation and it is important not to assume the
people you are speaking to know as much about the subject as you do. The
best approach is to try to educate those who may not naturally know what
you are talking about and reinforce the knowledge of those who probably do.
“This is a complex diagram.”
You can probably recall sitting through presentations where you have found
ourselves looking at a diagram on a slide and wondering what it could
possibly mean before your attention swiftly moved to something else.
If a diagram in your slides is not easy to understand your audience will
quickly lose interest. If you introduce it as a “complex diagram” they are
unlikely to try to understand what it shows.
Simplicity, as with so much of presentations, is crucial.
8. “Now, before I start…”
You have only got a very small opportunity in a presentation to make the
right impression with your audience. Like it or not, they will form an
instant impression of you.
This means you need to start strongly by getting to your key messages and
supporting stories and anecdotes straight away. Don’t waste this crucial
time with a bad beginning, such as checking technical equipment.
9. “Any questions?”
There’s nothing wrong with the question itself. The problem is that it is
often asked right at the end of a presentation when you should be looking
to finish strongly.
Chances are that by asking this question at the end, you will be met with
an awkward silence or you could face questions which are not addressing the
message you want the audience to take away from the presentation.
A better approach is to ask for questions at regular intervals throughout
the presentation and focus on providing a strong ending.
What phrases would you add to this list, PR Daily readers?
Adam Fisher is the content editor for
Media First, a media and communications training firm with over 30 years of
experience. A version of this article originally appeared on
the Media First blog.