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Presentation pitfalls - 5 ways to avoid dull and unproductive work talks

POSTED: 2nd June 2014
IN: Guides
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Attending meetings and presentations is a regular part of working life for many people, but this does not mean it should be a tiresome or unproductive experience. In fact, it should be quite the opposite.

Attending meetings and presentations is a regular part of working life for many people, but this does not mean it should be a tiresome or unproductive experience. In fact, it should be quite the opposite.undefined

A recent survey by electronics manufacturer Sharp highlighted the problem of what the company called 'mundane meeting syndrome'.

The findings showed that nearly one in ten (nine per cent) office workers had fallen asleep during a work presentation, while a third (34 per cent) had witnessed a colleague doing the same.

One in three (34 per cent) people with office-based jobs spend up to half the time they are supposed to be listening to a talk thinking about something else, according to the survey of employees in the UK, Spain, Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The study warned that this problem is hampering productivity, with 86 per cent of workers spending up to five hours a week in meetings, but only 16 per cent describing this time as 'inspiring'. More than three-quarters (79 per cent) of office employees thought they would be more productive at their desks.

However, the fact remains that talks and presentations are an important part of day-to-day operations for many businesses, so what can you do to rescue these occasions from mundanity?

Keep it concise and to the point

If there is one thing that is sure to send office workers to sleep, it is a long and rambling presentation, so keeping things brief and concise should be a primary aim for any speaker.

Prepare for your talk by making a bullet-pointed list of the key points you want to get across. If you find that the list starts to grow beyond five or six topics, you could be trying to squeeze too much information into a single meeting.

The Sharp survey found that excessive length is the top presentation bugbear for workers, with 55 per cent of people saying they are annoyed by it.

Think about engagement and collaboration

One effective way of holding your audience's attention is by thinking of ways you can make your presentation an engaging, collaborative event.

Less than half (42 per cent) of the office workers surveyed by Sharp described their work meetings as 'collaborative', and 58 per cent thought these events would be better if everyone was able to get involved.

Things as simple as regularly making eye contact with individuals, asking questions and encouraging your audience to ask questions of their own can turn your talk into a shared, mutually beneficial experience.

Do something different

The chances are that most office workers will have sat through dozens of meetings that have been practically indistinguishable from one another, so think about how you can make your talk different.

It can be helpful to prepare for your presentation with some lateral thinking. Start by focusing on the points you want to make, then consider how these can be expressed in new and unusual ways, possibly with references to organisations, industries or walks of life that are seemingly unrelated to your business.

Once you have got your audience's attention, you can explain how your apparently tangential references are relevant to them and their work.

Use humour and honesty

A boring presenter was listed as the second biggest presentation gripe in the Sharp survey, cited by 48 per cent of respondents.

One of the easiest ways of stopping your talk from descending into dullness is to keep it as humorous and light-hearted as possible. You may well be discussing issues that are serious for your business, but expressing them in a stern and sober manner will instantly put your listeners in a negative mindset.

You can also get the audience on your side by being open and honest. Sharing some of your personal work experiences, both good and bad, will ensure you come across as a person, rather than a robot delivering a pre-programmed message.

Be flexible in your speech and movement

It is always obvious to an audience when a speaker is giving a word-for-word rendition of a talk that has been rehearsed to death.

While it is important to prepare for your presentation in order to get a clear idea of the topics you want to cover, try not to worry about memorising every last detail. If you allow yourself some flexibility in expressing your points, you will come across as much more natural and relaxed.

This can also be achieved through your body language. Making casual movements and gestures as you speak will put your audience at ease, meaning they are more likely to find the talk interesting and informative.

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