30 Common Presentation Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

7 minutes read

Giving a PowerPoint presentation in front of your professor, colleagues, employees, employer, or potential clients can be a great source of anxiety. If not done well, your audience may have a low response rate, and we all know this usually doesn’t translate to anything positive.

I’d share with you 30 common presentation mistakes most students or professionals make. These mistakes can cost you a lot, so it’s important you do your best to avoid them.


1). Writing ”Presentation” on slide one

I know, not everyone knows you are giving a presentation, so you don’t need to add that to slide one. Simply name your presentation on the first slide in a few words as possible, and list your name, title and contact information.

2). Mentioning ”PowerPoint presentation”

You don’t say things like oh: here I am with a PowerPoint presentation. Surely, your audience should know that you are giving a PowerPoint presentation, mentioning that is unnecessary.

3). Not considering your audience needs and how much time they have to devote to you

It is necessary that you know your audience needs and how much time they have to devote to listen to your presentation. This would enable you to use the right phrase or metaphor that would leave them in awe, and warrant their attention. It’ll also enable you to maximise your time.

4). Being arrogant

Be humble, take other people’s opinion and questions into consideration. Being an arrogant presenter could make your audience uncomfortable. Don’t be an asshole!

5). Saying:

You know your audience would rather not be there…

”I know some of you would prefer to be at the AMA awards ceremony, but since we are here….’ ‘Never start with lines like this-they make your presentation appear boring to the audience. Believe in the value of your presentation, believe in yourself. Make your presentation sound interesting; tell stories, crack jokes, make good connections.

“I’m sorry”…

“For example, an audience member requests, ‘Could you please go back to the previous slide,’ or, ‘Could you please speak louder,’ and the presenter replies, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Don’t apologize; instead, give a positive proactive reply, such as, ‘Of course, I’d be happy to.'”

Presenters also tend to apologize when they think they’ve made an error, which the audience most likely did not notice: ”I’m sorry – earlier I forgot to say…”

Don’t call attention to a mishap, because it undermines your authority and expertise. Just make the point. Reserve an apology for a real failure or injury that has caused someone harm.

“I’m tired” 

Regardless of why you’re bushed, don’t broadcast it, Says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc. “You’re the star, and the show must go on.” Your audience want and expect value. Don’t disappoint them by announcing they’re not getting your best.

As a speaker, of course you know your primary responsibility is to prepare and rehearse enough to deliver an outstanding presentation – one that delivers value for the audience and reflects positively on you,” Price says. When that’s not possible, don’t announce it. Do the best you can and step up the prep next time.

“I already covered that. Weren’t you listening?” 

When an audience member asks a question about a point that you’ve already covered, answer it politely, even if that person wasn’t paying attention. Give the person the benefit of the doubt. Don’t scold, shame, blame, or embarrass an audience member.

“I’m nervous”

According to Darlene Price, you should not confess your anxiety as a negative, but rather as a positive.

“Every good presenter gets a bout of butterflies before speaking. It’s a sure sign you care – that something important is at stake. Plus, adrenalin is that magic energy that fuels your body for a great performance. Therefore, the goal is to manage the nervousness, not eliminate it.”

6). Delivering a one-slide presentation

Most presenters usually dwell on the first slide until they run out of time. Sometimes they forget that they have more than one slide. Be sure to study your slide content properly.

7). Adding Extraneous Information

For example: if your presentation is not intended to train new employees, then there is no need to write ”mission statement, ”vision ” and ”values”. You should rather give your audience the grace to make a conclusion about what your company stands for.

8). Too much text or information on a slide

The attention of the audience gets divided between the slide and the presenter if there are too much text on the slide. Put only key words on your slides. Keywords can help you remember the flow of your topic.

9). Reading slides

This is plain wrong and boring. All you need is just to conduct the slideshow and do the talking.

10). Overloading your slide with animations

Plain simple: doing so can make the audience perceive you as someone who is tacky. Use animations that are consistent with your speech.

11). Adding too much information on graphs

Graphs with too much data are usually not fully analyzed by the audience (due to time, etc.). Check the objective of your graph and decrease the amount of numbers, etc. Keep it simple.

12). Using poorly chosen design template or design theme

Blue is considered by many to be a good color for a design template or design theme, due to the fact that it is one of the most lovable colors. It’d be nice to use a blue template/theme when making a business presentation, even though you may dislike color blue. If you are making a presentation about cars, you shouldn’t use a design template with aeroplanes. Tip: straightforward layout is best for business presentation.
Young children respond positively to presentations that are full of color and contain a variety of shapes. You should put that into consideration when searching for a template/theme when making a presentation to a bunch of kids.

13). Not maintaining a standard design across the slide

Using similar fonts, colors, etc. across your slide makes it more appealing to the audience. You should read about color psychology to know which kind of color to use across your slides.
Audiences don’t like unusual color combination. Those with color blindness can’t differentiate between red and green. Good contrast with the background is essential to make your text easy to read. Dark text on a light background is best.

14). Using poor font choices

Small fonts might look great when you are sitting 10-15 inches away from your monitor, but it may not look so when viewed 100-200 feet away by your audience. Stick to easy to read fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman.

15). Adding sounds to your animation

Clipping sounds, clicking sounds, etc. These things could distract the audience from you. Sounds should only be allowed when you want to show them a short clip.

16). Too many slides

Keep your presentation intriguing, short and simple. It’s as easy as that.

17). Too many pictures or graphs

You should use photos, charts and diagrams only to emphasize key points of your presentation. Illustrate rather than decorate.

18). Summarizing the presentation at the end

This could be really annoying to your audience. Why sum up everything in only 15 minutes when you spent the last one hour giving your presentation. Don’t summarize, rather reinforce your main topic(s) and message(s).

19). “Outsourcing” the task of advancing the slides

You should get used to advancing your slides as a presenter. This would prevent you from shouting ”next!” ”skip!” and the like. Or you talk to the person who would advance your slides on basis of discreet physical cues.

20). Hardware Malfunction

This is one of the worst things that could happen to any presenter. Endeavor to check all the equipments, and rehearse your presentation with the equipment’s long before your time to present. Carry extra equipment’s if possible. Check the lightning of the room you’d be giving your presentation. Make sure you know how to control the intensity of the light in the room if the room gets too bright.

21). Wearing the wrong clothing

Your clothes communicate identity, personality, and image to the audience. It is the first thing your audience will see during your presentation. They will be more open to your message if you carry yourself with confidence. You’ll feel more certain of yourself if you’re dressed in appropriate and comfortable clothing. The most important principle is to match your appearance to the occasion and the audience.

22). Lacking confidence

You are talking to humans like you, who could even be in the same position as you if they were to make a presentation, so why feel tense? Without confidence you wouldn’t communicate with the right tone or body language to the audience. This could greatly impact how open the audience is to your presentation.
You can read the articles I presented below for more information.

23). Not being able to answer questions concisely

Keep your answers short and simple. If you can’t provide a right answer-say it, but reassure the person you’d get in touch with them with the answer.

24). Not being prepared for the presentation

This could lead to pure disaster. After all ”an unfinished business is no business”. You need time to gather the facts, and get your materials ready, including yourself ready. It’s better you give zero presentation, than go for your presentation unprepared. Whether your presentation lasts for five minutes, fifty minutes, five hours, or five days, you owe it to yourself and your audience to prepare thoroughly. Eat the right meal before your presentation, take a bottle of water and keep it within arm’s reach during your speech.

25). Presenting a false information

Presenting false information during your presentation could really add a stain to your credibility if you get caught. This is why you need to do an extensive research prior to your presentation. Quote your sources when you are not sure of the information.

26). Not being able to understand your audience

You need to understand your audience in order to best appeal to their emotions. To be able to understand your audience effectively, you need to answer these questions:

  • How much knowledge do they have of the subject I’ll be presenting?
  • What are the ranks and positions of the people who will be attending?
  • What does the audience want to achieve?
  • How can I honor my audience’s needs and perspectives?
  • What is the age group?
  • Why do I have to do this presentation?

Give them something they haven’t heard before. Tell a captivating story. Ask a rhetorical thought provoking question. Play a short video. Give them something they know isn’t just available anywhere…Something to keep them active and wanting more.

27). Inappropriate Humor

Humor is culture-sensitive. A joke in one part of the world may be considered a taboo in another. Although cracking a joke during your presentation can be uplifting, it’s best to crack jokes that wouldn’t cause controversy. You don’t necessarily need to crack jokes when doing professional presentations. Or, you can look for other ways to build rapport with the audience.

28). Employing negative body language

Maintaining eye contact is essential during your presentation. You shouldn’t spend your time looking at your notes, the screen or the ceiling- these and more are negative body language. Employing them during your presentation can cause more harm than good to your presentation.
Employing large gestures, smiling appropriately, high energy speeches are some few positive body languages to employ.

29). Arriving late for presentation

You should arrive at your presentation center at least one-hour before your presentation starts. Shake hands and talk with as many people as possible ahead of time. Go through your presentation. Practice the first minute in your mind. Focus on positive thoughts and images. It’s not strange to feel nervous before a presentation, but arriving late makes everything worst.

30). Having a “Thank you slide”

Say ”thank you” in person.

I’d recommend you read the following articles below:


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Giovanni O.C Olakunori

Giovanni Chinecherem Olakunle Olakunori(commonly known as Giovanni Olakunori) is an aspiring data scientist at heart, business developer and educator with a deep interest in ancient philosophy, healthy living, and developing economies. He’s the founder of LarnEdu, a community that inspires and supports lifelong learning especially in underdeveloped nations. He currently lives in the UK after living in 4 other countries across Europe and Africa. You can read more about him or follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to see his public posts about how much he loves hot Kenkey and Jolof rice.

3 Responses

  1. Lawal says:

    Well, I would not say I have not learnt something from these presentation tips…

  2. Rakwa says:

    Really – This is one of the best presentation tips I’ve seen… Great piece Giovani! 🙂

  3. Bruce Oduma says:

    Great piece!

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