9 Reasons Why Your Presentation Isn’t Working

Do you wonder why people are just not getting it? You’ve given your presentation many times and you know in your heart that this time is different, you’ve added something new and the content has been updated. Yet people still seem distant and aloof and you can’t quite put your finger on what is wrong.

After years of knowing and dealing with people about presentations, we’ve compiled a list of the most common reasons why your presentation isn’t working.

1) You haven’t targeted your audience.

This seems obvious but it is amazing how often presenters forget to do this. It’s important to spend some time understanding who you are presenting to and what their needs and expectations are likely to be. Why do they need this information? How is it going to help them? What is their level of knowledge in this area?

Don’t just think about the individuals you know will be there, but also your audience as a control group who have been asked to view your presentation for feedback. If these people don’t get the information, it’s unlikely that the participants will.

2) You are using too much jargon.

Have you ever read a scientific paper? If so, then you’ll have seen some pretty complicated language being used to describe some pretty simple concepts. I remember thinking “What on earth does this all mean?” Then looking at the author who was a professional scientist and thought “He doesn’t even understand what he is writing about.”

A presentation should be a dialogue between you and your audience, not a monologue from on high from some superior being. If the participants don’t know what these words mean then they will switch off very quickly. Also, remember that ‘jargon’ isn’t just scientific words, it’s also buzzwords like ‘leveraging’ and ‘synergy’.

3) You are putting them to sleep.

Do you ever notice people in your audience yawning or looking around the room for something more interesting? If yes, then maybe your presentation needs a little more energy injected into it. Most presenters want to be liked and will give a presentation that is just too nice. People lose interest in nice, they want to be wowed!

Think of the most memorable presentations you have ever seen; what was different about them? How did the presenter make it special? Perhaps they made witty comments or used very visual slides.

The audience has an attention span like a gnat so you need to grab them in the first few minutes or they will find something else to do. If they are looking at their watches when you begin your presentation this is not a good sign.

4) You are making it too complicated.

You may have heard the expression “Keep It Simple Stupid” or “KISS”. This is a pretty good rule to follow in life and most certainly when presenting. A presentation doesn’t need to be complicated; it just needs to be simple and effective.

There’s no point in mentioning something unless you can explain it in plain English! If the audience doesn’t understand your message or you lose them with too much detail then you are never going to get your message across.

5) You are just reading the slides.

Many presentations will have a lot of information on the slide and inevitably people start reading straight from them instead of giving their audience time to absorb the content in their own time, leaving gaps where you should be speaking!

This is like giving them photocopies of the presentation. Use the slides as prompts but don’t read them verbatim. Try to remember that you are on stage to entertain, inform and motivate your audience; not just read out loud!

6) You are using too many visuals.

You may be able to get away with this one if you make sure they are clear and relevant, but if you make the presentation visually stunning and it doesn’t add to your message (ie no one understands what they mean) then it’s too much!

Research shows that people remember 20% of what they hear and 80% of what they see. Therefore we know that visuals are vital; we just need to keep them appropriate.

7) You are being too longwinded.

Research shows that adults have an attention span of just 8 seconds, so you need to grab their attention straight away and keep it! Don’t ramble on with irrelevant information because this will lose them quickly. A presentation is a dialogue, not a monologue so remember to think about your audience before you begin.

8) You are being too shortwinded.

You may have heard the phrase “less is more” and this applies to presentations too! If you rush through your pitch presentation because it’s going on for too long then the audience will miss the message and you’ll lose their interest. This is always a balancing act between time and content. Make sure you have enough time for what you need to present so the audience doesn’t switch off but also realize that shorter is sometimes better!

9) You are being too academic.

The business world is often very competitive, so be careful not to keep using your industry jargon or acronyms because it will put your audience off before you even begin. Put yourself in their shoes and think about whether or not they will understand what you are saying so you don’t lose them, especially as it’s your first time speaking to them!

One great tip when making visuals for presentations is to use Venngage — a free infographic maker that provides a wide range of presentation ideas. From flow charts to pitch decks, Venngage has it all. To give you an idea, here are some presentation or pitch deck examples from their website!

As you can see there are many factors to take into account when presenting. As long as you keep these tips in mind and get a little help from Venngage, then you should be okay! After all, whether it’s for a school presentation or a business pitch, the presenter becomes the most important person in the room for those few minutes because they are delivering something which has taken time and effort to prepare. Also, don’t forget that visuals are very important in catching people’s attention. What are you waiting for? Start making your own presentation today!

Literature Junkie, Marketing Specialist, and Content Producer. Writing quality content is my passion. Additionally, I love to listen to music every time no matter if I'm working or traveling.