Are you looking to make a bigger difference in the world?

Presentations, training sessions, seminars, and workshops are a popular and impactful way to touch many people and help them in a big way. But, it’s very easy to fall prey to presentation mistakes even smart presenters make that keep audiences bored and disengaged – and prevent them from remembering and using what you’re sharing with them. These mistakes sabotage your efforts at making a long-lasting impact.

I want to help you steer clear of the these mistakes, and instead, move you toward an engaging presentation or training session where you create raving fans who come back for more every time you offer a session. That’s bound to bode well for your business.

Mistake #1

The first mistake is that many presenters ignore the learning needs of the people sitting in front of them.

It doesn’t matter what you call it – a presentation, a talk, a seminar, a training session, or a workshop – your audience members still need certain things to happen during your time together in order to be able to remember and use your information.

Put on your audience member / participant hat for a moment and consider this situation. When you’re at a presentation, training session, or seminar, what do you personally need, want, or like for that session to be effective for you?

Typically, when I ask this question of my workshop attendees, they tell me they like

  • challenging ideas & practical uses for those ideas
  • variety
  • an opportunity to participate
  • hands-on-practice
  • reviews
  • fun

Many of these points seem obvious, and yet so many presenters either don’t know about or ignore the needs, wants, and likes of the people they’re talking to because they’re so focused on getting their message out. If we don’t give our audience members a session that addresses their needs, wants, and likes, they will take matters into their own hands. That might mean resorting to playing games on their smartphones, texting, day-dreaming, chatting, or even leaving.

How to avoid this mistake:  Remember your own answers to the exercise you just did.

Many of your audience members need, want, and like the same things that you do. Can you make everybody in your session happy all of the time? No, but you can make everybody happy some of the time. Do a little research with people who typically come to your sessions. Then, use this information when planning your sessions.

Mistake #2

The second mistake many presenters make is spending too much time focusing on themselves and their platform skills.

What are platform skills? They are the combination of voice and body language that together make up the performance at the front of the room.

It’s natural to be concerned about platform skills – when you’re standing at the front of the room, all eyes on you wondering whether your zipper and your buttons are done up, whether you’re talking in a monotone, or whether you are making too many nervous gestures.

The problem is that many presenters assume that if they (1) are being entertaining on the platform, and (2) showing off their knowledge, their session will be successful. This approach puts the focus on the speaker. But who really is the most important person in the room? It’s the audience member. Without the audience, the speaker is talking to an empty room!

It can also be exhausting and stressful for a presenter to carry the burden of the entire performance. Derrick, a participant in one of my workshops, got it when he said “I’m a whole new presenter now.” He had previously assumed that he was responsible for doing all the talking during his sessions. He realized that he was stressing himself out unnecessarily and preventing his participants from getting a more effective learning experience.

How to avoid this mistake: Think of yourself as a facilitator of learning rather than a presenter of information. Then, sharpen your facilitation skills and spend more time

  • encouraging participation
  • asking more questions
  • guiding attendees’ in guessing, analyzing, and thinking critically
  • reinforcing and debriefing learning
  • providing feedback and coaching

Facilitation skills will help you ensure that your audience members stay engaged and motivated.

Mistake #3

The third mistake, poor session design, happens as a result of the first two mistakes you have just learned about. What does poor design look like?

  • Too much information dump (lecture)
  • No interaction, discussion, or exercises to process information
  • No practice and coaching
  • Poor or no materials or media, e.g. slides, handouts
  • No organized structure (e.g. road map, formula, numbered system of steps)

Why does this matter?

You have to remember that people are overwhelmed with information. A research study done by the University of California, San Diego, tells us that in 2015, we were each taking in 74 GB of information every day.  74 GB! This is what we as presenters are up against. We have to break through all that noise and design our sessions in a way that our audiences can remember and apply what we teach them – if we want to make a long-term impact.

How to avoid this mistake: Plan your sessions with the list above in mind.

Remember that your audiences consist of intelligent people who learn in a variety of ways. They don’t need spoon-feeding, but they do need to spend some time processing what they hear or read in order for it to stick. So, give your participants opportunities to process, to use your information, by facilitating activities such as small group discussion, case studies, problem-solving exercises, hands-on-practice, or role plays. Spend time, as well, discussing how they can apply the new information to their work or personal lives. You’ll be giving real value by helping them do the things they have to do in the real world – and that’s far better session design than an information dump.


Now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on the 3 mistakes even smart presenters make, I’d like to invite you to adopt my motto “Engage, Encourage, Empower”. As you stand up to give a presentation, training session, or seminar, you can make a bigger difference in the world when you engage others in thought, in conversation, and in action; when you encourage them to try on new ideas and skills; and when you empower them to use the skills and knowledge you’re sharing with them.


Ida Shessel, is your go-to expert for training sessions, presentations, & workshops that rock. She has been a facilitator, speaker, and coach for over 30 years, including many years as a professor at Seneca College and a consultant with an award-winning seminar company.  Sign up for your free report and weekly presentation tips here.[/wr_text][/wr_column][/wr_row]

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