Which 7 examples of poor delivery should I avoid?
This is the third and final lesson about Delivery Strategies. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the seven pitfalls of a poor presentation
– Explore each pitfall in relation to English academic contexts
– Provide images and examples to help engage the reader
Having now fully discussed delivery strategies during academic presentations as well as explored the seven most useful tips for success, this third and final lesson on the subject next deals with the seven most common pitfalls that effective presenters should avoid. By reading these pitfalls carefully and making sure that you don’t fall into these same traps during your own presentation, students should increase the likelihood of audience engagement, and – if assessed – their grades.
Seven Pitfalls to Avoid
1. Being Monotonous
The first pitfall is being a monotonous presenter, which is a type of presenter who doesn’t alter the pitch, rhythm and general melody of their voice. The audience will almost certainly be lulled to sleep during such a talk, which should not be the aim or outcome of a successful academic presentation. If you wish to engage your audience, keep them alert and have them considering your points and arguments, then as a presenter you should vary how you deliver your pacing, pitch and volume, and how many pauses you carefully insert.
2. Using Fillers
Words such as ‘uh’ and ‘uhm’ are common fillers that should be avoided by presenters at all costs. It’s perfectly natural of course to use these words between phrases, clauses and sentences, particularly when you’re trying to remember the next part of your presentation. However, a presenter that has practised amply, and who has purposefully replaced their filler words with careful pauses, will sound much more precise and engaging to their audience.
3. Reading Directly
Another pitfall that new presenters especially tend to fall into is reading directly from their notes or PowerPoint slides. As was recommended at the end of Lesson 2, it’s certainly a good idea to use notes to remind yourself of the content of your presentation, but you shouldn’t be seen reading from them directly as this will show that you haven’t sufficiently rehearsed or do not fully know your topic. If you need to, instead simply pause, look at your notes, return your gaze to the audience and continue speaking.
4. Showing Nerves/Boredom
Whether you’ve never presented before or have given the same presentation a thousand times, a nervous or bored presenter is not an engaging one for their audience. To improve upon a nervous disposition, follow the seven tips for success as outlined in Lesson 2. And if you’re bored, well… do your best to hide it; if you don’t, then your audience will likely be bored too.
5. Overusing Humour
While humour is an important aspect of delivering a presentation and works to better engage the audience, an overuse of this technique can make you seem nervous or unable to take your topic seriously. Instead, be selective of when to introduce your humour, such as by using it as an ice-breaker to start the presentation or to reengage your audience if they appear to be growing tired, uncomfortable or bored. Just remember to make sure that your humour is directly relevant to your content and is acceptable with, and likely to get a laugh from, your audience.
6. Staring too Much
Eye contact is very important during a presentation, and a good presenter should never look at the ceiling or ground when talking. With that in mind, staring at any one person or place in particular can be awkward and can potentially make that person very uncomfortable. If you’re presenting in a big space, it’s generally acceptable to focus on the first five rows of people, looking at different locations around the room at different times. You don’t have to stare at any one person directly and may instead simply be able to look just above their heads or in their general direction. Act like you’re presenting to everyone in the audience and that audience should feel better connected to both you and your material.
7. Forgetting Something
One final pitfall to avoid is forgetting something during your presentation that’s noticeable to your audience. While this is bound to happen to everyone at some point if they conduct numerous presentations, the more you can do to limit the likelihood of this the better. Perhaps by practising sufficiently before the day of the presentation and by designing a visual aid that reminds you of your talk’s structure and content, you will feel better supported as a (very human) presenter.
We all forget things from time to time, and if the audience doesn’t notice then there’s really little problem. However, forget your water and have a coughing fit, misremember your content mid-flow more than once, or get confused about the structure of your presentation, and your audience (and assessor) will likely be unimpressed with your performance.
Good work on finishing our short course on delivery strategies for academic presentations. Consider next taking another short course on presentation skills, and don’t forget also to unlock and complete our beginner, intermediate and advanced level worksheets to check your progress and understanding.
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