7 ways to give a BAD presentation
I speak at a lot of conferences and often get to watch other presenters. I also train people in how to give good presentations and speeches in public. I’ve advised people ranging from managers wanting to be more impactful at work to individuals giving eulogies at funerals. Whether you are speaking in person or speaking online, here are 7 ways people inadvertently end up giving bad presentations or speeches.
1. Do a minimal amount of preparation
Of course no one would be stupid enough to do no preparation. But, if you want to give a bad presentation, try just doing a tiny amount of preparation. Just scribble down your thoughts maybe the night before your presentation.
Whatever you do, don’t start thinking about your presentation days or even weeks in advance. Psychology tells us that people often have “Eureka!” moments – times when they come up with great ideas – when they think about a topic and then set it aside to focus on other things. So, to make sure you have no time to come up with inspirational ideas, make sure you do only a tiny bit of preparation just before your presentation.
2. Forget about structure
Good presenters think about the right order in which to put their material. So, if you want to give a bad presentation, don’t do this.
For example, good presenters sometimes use the “problem-solution” structure. At the start of their presentation, they might introduce their presentation and say something like: “I’m going to point out four major problems we’re facing, and then I’ll tell you about the solutions to each one.”
Another common type of presentation structure is based on an acronym. For instance, when I give presentations on how to tell stories, I often use the SOAR acronym, which stands for Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results. By using the four-letter acronym SOAR, I provide people with an easy way to remember the four stages of storytelling.
There are lots of different presentation structures. But the key to giving a bad presentation is to make sure you don’t use any at all.
3. Don’t do any rehearsal
I do a lot of one-to-one training and coaching with managers who need to make a great impact. And they often rehearse their presentations two, three, four or even more times. Yes, when a presentation is really critical, they rehearse, get feedback and rewrite their content multiple times.
So, if you’re looking to give a bad presentation, don’t rehearse at all. By avoiding rehearsal, you’ll hesitate and have more “um” and “ah” words in your presentation – you definitely won’t sound confident. This way, you’ll help yourself on the way to giving a memorably bad presentation.
4. Read from a script or slides
One of the best ways to annoy an audience is just to read from a sheet of paper or the note cards in your hands. Reading a script means you can’t make eye contact, which is a guaranteed way to give a bad presentation. To be honest, I don’t see this happening very often. However, I do see a lot of people reading from their slides, which should also ensure you give a bad presentation.
If you are mainly just reading your slides, then you make yourself redundant. After all, you could just send your slide deck to people and have them read it for themselves.
Good presenters add further value by adding in further insights. But as this piece is about how to give a bad presentation, then make sure you don’t add in any further comments or additional explanation at all.
5. Forget about engagement or entertainment
Bad presenters think of presentations as being opportunities to communicate only factual information. So, make sure you just state the facts while maintaining the same tone of voice and using the same pacing throughout your presentation.
In contrast, good presenters understand that it’s important to engage and even entertain an audience. If an audience isn’t attentive, they’ll chat amongst themselves or just check their phones.
Good presenters are like great actors – they vary how they use their voices. They speak more loudly or more softly at times. They allow the pitch of their voices to go up when they are enthusiastic or using humour; they allow the pitch of their voices to go down when they are discussing more serious topics.
Great presenters also often prepare amusing comments or think about funny situations that they can talk about. Their humour may seem spontaneous, but it’s often not.
Anyway, to deliver a bad presentation, just stick to communicating dry facts in a monotonous voice. Don’t use rhetorical questions to get your audience thinking. Don’t ask actual questions to get your audience involved. And to ensure that you don’t accidentally engage or entertain your audience, make sure you never introduce the occasional photo, video or touch of humour either.
6. Don’t get feedback on how you come across
One of the best ways to ensure you give bad presentations time after time is to avoid asking for comments and advice on how you come across. Don’t ask for feedback from colleagues and customers. And definitely don’t ask for constructive criticism and help from a professional coach.
A great way to stay bad is to assume that people in your audience will spontaneously offer you their comments and advice. The truth is that most people don’t like to deliver negative messages – so even when they see really bad presenters, they usually don’t say anything.
Even asking people in an audience how you came across often doesn’t work. Audiences are so reluctant to be critical in person that they often mumble platitudes designed to keep a presenter happy – rather than help the presenter to improve. The only way to get good quality feedback is to get people to write their comments anonymously.
So, to be bad – and stay bad – at presenting, don’t seek out the guidance of a coach or the anonymous written feedback of audiences.
7. Don’t include any stories, anecdotes or examples
Talking about facts and plans is the best way to ensure you are perceived as someone who is giving a bad presentation. So, make sure you include plenty of statistics and pieces of data. Talk endlessly about the actions that you have taken or the upcoming plans that your audience should be aware of.
To be a bad presenter, don’t include any stories, anecdotes or examples in your presentation. After all, examples can help to make abstract concepts more easily understood. Stories can sometimes generate emotions, which would make your presentation more engaging and memorable, too. Anecdotes about things that have happened to you or other people can give audiences a breather from the relentless pace of most presentations.
I often see presenters making several of these mistakes at the same time. But if you are determined to be truly bad at giving speeches and presentations, try doing all 7 at the same time.