Bimbo Banter

You Can Pay a Lot for Bad Advice

  • Leadership
  • September 23, 2014
  • by Merrie Spaeth

09 23 14 bad advice

People always ask me for advice when they’re preparing a presentation. Enough with good advice.

Here are the top five worst pieces of advice I’ve ever heard:

1. Your hand gestures should match your words. “Thus, I (point to self) am so glad to see you (gesture to audience) to talk about the big picture (stretch out arms) to cover three issues (hold up three fingers).” The logical outcome of this advice is the infamous Phil Davison speech plugging for the Republican nomination for a county treasurer position.

Hand gestures and arm gestures can range from energetic to restrained, and a speaker wants to avoid common mistakes like a hand that disappears into a pants pocket and doesn’t reappear, or clasping or “washing” hands nervously.

2. Maintain eye contact for five seconds and move to the next person. We had a client participate in a presentation skills class (not ours) where an instructor stood with a stop watch timing them for five seconds. It is important to establish eye contact so the audience member thinks, “Gee, he’s talking to me!”

The easiest and most effective advice is to move on punctuation. So, the speaker talks to one member of the audience until arriving at a comma or end of a sentence, then moves to the next person. This also inserts a split second pause and allows the speaker to take a quick breath.

3. Companies should establish a format for PowerPoint and all slides should be consistent.

While pursuing the admirable goal of brand consistency, this tends to produces a parade of similar, boring slides that are not true visuals at all.

4. Distribute your “deck” before your presentation or be prepared to send it out to cascade the information through the enterprise.

Wrong again. There is a difference between a handout and a visual. True, they can overlap, but a handout is designed to be read by an individual. A visual is to help the speaker tell a story, drive memory or illustrate a point.

5. “Rehearsal? I don’t have time and I don’t need to because I know the topic.”

My response to this is to note my best known client always rehearsed. And that’s Ronald Reagan, or Mr. President to you. But, hey, if you’re busier than the President…

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