DOs and DON’Ts of Presenting: 1. Don’t bore them!

Quite recently I was asked by a client to put together some Dos and Don’ts with regard to making presentations.  A useful exercise!

1. Don’t Bore Them

An obvious instruction, you’d have thought.  Yet how many times have you sat through a presentation bored rigid?  How often had you wished you were elsewhere?  If you have thought this about other people’s presentations, have you also thought about your own?  Have you ever been guilty of boring people?

When I ask my clients why they, or anyone else, makes presentations I usually get these types of answer:

  • To give the audience information
  • To tell them something important
  • It’s your opportunity to talk to a large group all at once.

Fair enough, you might say.  But these answers are all from the point of view of the speaker, not from that of the audience members. What’s in it for them?


In my view there are two really important and fundamental questions that anyone preparing to speak to an audience must ask themselves.

  1. What do I want my audience members to feel, and therefore do, as a result of listening to me?
  2. What is in it for them?  How does what I say connect to their lives, experiences and interests?  How do we connect?

Humans like to connect.  When someone talks about something, just notice how you are immediately thinking of ways this ties in with your own experience or with something similar you’ve heard about before.   And if you want them to feel strongly about what you say, think about how to make them feel strongly.  A bunch of statisticians might feel strongly about some stunning stats; a group of artists might be moved by a beautiful artwork. Therefore, think what applies to your particular audience and their specific interests and level of knowledge in your subject.  In general, we are wired to feel things about people, not abstractions, so give concrete examples rather than talk about abstract ideas.

The unexpected

One of the most boring features of business presentations can be their predictability.  ‘Good morning everyone.  My name is…. I’m here today to talk about… on this slide…’

Surprise them.  Don’t start with a first line they are expecting. Make them curious about your subject.  Curiosity is a very important response as it gets people thinking, exploring possibilities in their minds and thus do they learn.  Create a mystery and solve it in the course of your talk.  Ask questions.  Keep them on their metaphorical toes.

Ask yourself if you would like to sit through your presentation, particularly if you are not very knowledgeable about the subject.

If you’re bored by you, think what your audience must feel!

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