Delivering a Presentation? Here are the Top 4 Mistakes to Avoid

By: The Humphrey Group

Whether you're a seasoned executive or an emerging leader, the art of delivering an impactful presentation is a skill that will likely be necessary at some point in almost everyone’s career. 

But we’ve all been there. We’ve all sat through a presentation that made us want to curl up for a nap – and none of us ever want to be that presenter. That’s why at The Humphrey Group, we focus on transforming your presentation game to elevate your leadership influence. 

Let’s look at the four most common presentation pitfalls we see, so you can steer clear of them. 


Mistake # 1 – Your presentation lacks clarity in its objective

Otherwise put, what the heck is your presentation about? While it may seem surprising, one of the main presentation missteps we see is a failure to establish a clear and concise idea. Without a defined purpose and key objective, a presentation will feel directionless and ineffective. 

This doesn’t happen due to a lack of intelligence. On the contrary. We see many people who are experts in their field, and who have so many nuanced and insightful ideas about their area of knowledge that it ends up being difficult to pin down the main idea.

As a leader, you must articulate the primary goal of your presentation so that your audience can feel engaged and connected to the topic. When we observe leaders giving presentations, they outline what they aim to achieve and provide key takeaways for their audience.


Tip: Early in your slide deck, dedicate one slide solely to the main message of your presentation. This will help your audience understand the main point you are trying to make, all your subsequent slides should reinforce this message.


Mistake #2 – Your presentation lacks a clear structure

Without a structured framework, your audience may struggle to follow your message. This is one of the most common mistakes we’ve seen. To overcome this, it’s critical to prioritize a clear and organized structure for your presentation (whether you have a visual component or not).

Great presentations often start with a story or fact that helps the audience to buy in mentally and emotionally – and we highly recommend that approach. But once you’ve made your introduction, make sure to clearly state your objective.

A simple way to stay on track is to follow your objective with a concise outline of your key points, then elaborate on each point logically within your talk. Finally, conclude with a summary that reinforces your main message and leaves a lasting impression.


Tip: Include an agenda slide in your presentation so your audience is primed for the rest of your presentation. If you aren’t using visual aids, be sure to clearly state what you will cover in the presentation before you dive into the content.


Mistake #3 – Your slides are overloaded with information

When we work with subject matter experts, it’s clear that they often know so much about their topic that they’re not able to easily discern what is and isn’t important to share. But when a presentation includes a visual component, it’s important not to overwhelm the slides with excessive information.

When your audience is faced with slides that are crammed with too much text, data or graphics – especially if they’re expected to focus on the presenter’s words while simultaneously reading the slides, the whole experience becomes an information overload. The result? The audience tunes out.

Effective presentations require a balance between providing valuable information and maintaining audience attention. When you craft a visual aid for your presentation, focus on highlighting key points, and use visuals that mirror takeaways or demonstrate concepts that may otherwise be difficult to grasp.


Tip: Don’t let your slide distract your audience from you. Once you’ve built a slide, ask yourself if the slide is providing more information than you as the presenter. If it is, take out some detail so that the audience can focus on what you are saying.


Mistake #4 – You’re ignoring your audience

This may sound extreme, but that’s exactly what we see happening when a presenter neglects to consider the needs, interests, and knowledge level of their audience. Not understanding the audience's perspective can result in a disconnect that diminishes the effectiveness of your message.

Successful presentations involve tailoring content to resonate with the audience. Before crafting your presentation, conduct a thorough audience analysis. Think about what unique characteristics and expectations your audience will have so that you can ensure that your message is relevant, relatable, and impactful.


Tip: Practice delivering your presentation to someone who might be in the audience, or who has knowledge of the audience perspective. Ask them to give you feedback on when you might be giving too much or too little information.


Avoid these presentation mistakes to make a lasting impact

From not defining clear objectives or clearly structuring your content, to overloading your audience with information and not considering their perspective, we recognize that the effectiveness of any presentation is rooted in steering clear of these pitfalls.

The real cost of these mistakes is that they hinder your ability to connect with your audience, which is where our philosophy of leadership and communication really come together.  When you craft your presentations in alignment with our proven principles, you naturally connect with your audience, and leave a lasting impact as a leader.

Hungry for more? THG offers a variety of learning opportunities that can take your presentation skills to the next level. If you’ve found these tips useful, explore our Signature Learning Experience, Presenting as a Leader.