Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 14


The 'Fatal Five' to Avoid During Presentations

A few years back, nonprofit communications expert Andy Goodman wondered: "Why are so many of our colleagues—decent, well-educated, well-intentioned folks—so good at being boring?" After conducting research for a book on bad presentations and hearing the pet peeves of thousands in the field, he believes he knows why.

Goodman, author of Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, recently chatted with Advancement Weekly about how managers can ensure that bad presentations don't happen to them. He outlined what he calls "the fatal five," or the most common problems surveyed participants say they have with presentations and presenters.

  1. Reading the slides. Goodman discourages presenters from putting the exact same information on their slides as they do on their handouts. Doing so can draw further attention away from the speaker, he said.
  2. Too long, too much information. Goodman added, "Most presenters have the misconception that the more I tell you, the more you're going to learn." He said the opposite is actually closer to the truth.
  3. Lack of interaction. Presenters who don't stop for questions or to engage their audience have likely already lost the attention of attendees. "Don't assume that your audience is an empty vessel simply to be filled with information," he noted.
  4. Lifeless presenters. Plain and simple, "monotone speakers" or those "who seem to lack interest in their own material" easily allow the minds of their attendees to wander, Goodman said.
  5. Room/technical problems. Perhaps most surprisingly, those surveyed by Goodman expressed their distress at issues presenters should be prepared for—such as a projector not working, the air conditioning being too loud or a microphone having a distracting hiss.

Goodman also spoke of three characteristics attendees say they want from presenters. Not surprisingly, they are the exact opposite of numbers 2, 3 and 4 on his "fatal five" list.

  1. Interaction
  2. Clarity
  3. Enthusiasm

"Bad presentations are not unique to the nonprofit sector," Goodman said. "I've seen presentations and presenters that are just as bad in the corporate world. Presenters in both worlds are like a football team that needs to go back and review the basics of blocking and tackling to improve."


This article is from the Oct. 10, 2011 issue.

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