The most common online presentation mistakes and the bad decisions that lead to them


Let’s talk about what not to do if you don’t want your event to end in an epic fail. 


Before we get into the main portion of this article, let’s talk about the nature of the bad decisions and mistakes made by the authors of online presentations. Where do they even come from? Based on the collective experience gathered within the Pitch Avatar team, these blunders have three main sources.

Fear of public speaking

75% of people suffer from glossophobia to some degree – this is the term for the fear associated with public speaking. If we include not only fear, but also excitement and anxiety, the percentage of those affected by public speaking to some degree will be even higher – about 90%. Fear is known to be a bad counselor and often compels us to make poor, irrational decisions.

Lack of time and other resources

Correctly determining the type and amount of resources that you will need in order to prepare a quality online presentation is half of a presentation’s success. The most valuable resource is time. You must have enough of it in order to prepare a creative and original script, bring it to life, and leave time for rehearsals. A lack of time can result in interesting speakers declining invitations to participate, as well as limiting the number of qualified specialists who will attend and perhaps even prevent the purchase of necessary tools. Haste, inevitably arising due to a lack of time, will inevitably lead to mistakes and suboptimal decisions. The only question is their criticality and quantity.

Lack of creativity

This is not about someone not having talent and vision. It’s about the fact that many presenters prefer the “beaten path” of ready-made templates, ideas, and solutions. This includes their own. About 75% of presenters reuse the same template repeatedly. About 30% use the same template five times or more! That being said, it doesn’t mean that ready-made templates and solutions are inherently bad. It’s just that they should be used correctly. The order of operation should be as follows: First you need to think of how your presentation should look, and then look for solutions that can help you to realize your concept. Alas – many people do exactly the opposite. The result is a lot of presentations that seem to have been produced on a conveyor belt, and that are, quite frankly, boring

This is the end of the required introduction, so let’s move on to our advice:


  • Don’t create online presentations modeled after traditional presentations. Once, this was perhaps the most common mistake made by online event creators. They simply conducted online presentations and webinars as if they were working in front of an audience in a conference room. For example, a presentation that uses the Kawasaki formula of 10 slides and a 20-minute presentation. However, the laws of nature are different for online and offline events. It is much more difficult to fight for the attention of an online audience than it is for the same audience sitting in an auditorium or conference room. By and large, an audience in an auditorium is captive and it is easier to hold their attention. Where else can they look but at you and the slides that are projected on the screen? This is especially true if you’ve remembered to ask your audience to turn off their smartphones. Even if an audience in an auditorium is not very interested in what is happening on stage, they will not switch to another auditorium. There is also a psychological element, most people would not dare to get up and leave in the middle of a presentation. That is why the presenter of an offline presentation can afford to spend 20 and 30 minutes of the audience’s time. If they really need to, they may even take an hour.


  • An online audience is a different matter. It takes seconds to switch to another screen or even to switch to another device. And there are no psychological brakes being applied, as no one can see you. Studies show that 10 minutes is a practical limit, beyond which the majority of your audience’s attention in an online event drops to zero. The average viewing time of a modern online presentation is 3-5 minutesNote that we have touched upon only one significant difference between online and offline presentations. But even this is enough to understand once and for all why an online event should not be a simple duplicate of an offline presentation.


  • Don’t stand or walk around unnecessarily. The legs of this mistake grow from the same place as the previous error. When a presenter works from a stage it is understandable that they stand and even walk around. Otherwise, the audience sitting in the back seats will not be able to see the presenter well. But why stand or walk around in front of an online audience? If you’re giving an online presentation on your feet, it should be justified. For example, if you are drawing something on a whiteboard or giving a sort of virtual tour of some place or object. In the absence of a legitimate reason, the best solution is to be on equal footing with the audience. This means that  you should sit down.
  • Don’t copy famous speakers. One of the most frequently repeated tips is to use techniques and solutions popularized by famous public speaking masters of the past. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find presenters who take this advice too literally. Instead of developing their own unique style by adapting some techniques from famous speakers, they choose the manner of… say, Steve Jobs, and try to mirror it exactly. The result, as a rule, is a bad parody. The benefit obtained by a presentation given in this style is, at best, zero.


  • Don’t drag out the introduction. Today’s online presentation viewer makes a very quick decision about whether they like what they see and whether they will continue to watch it. This takes approximately 15 seconds. A presenter who succeeds in getting the viewer to watch the first 2-3 slides can expect the viewer to watch the presentation to the end. Alas, there are many presenters who do not know about, or have forgotten about, this rule, and waste time on lengthy introductions that include a long story about themselves, the history of their company, and uninformative introductory slides. It is quite possible that all of this will be followed by content that would really interest the audience. Except that they won’t see it, because by then they will have already dispersed. Our advice: Start immediately with interesting information, and try to present it in an intriguing and attention-grabbing manner. 


  • Don’t read from a sheet of paper. Paper cheat sheets, which are quite appropriate on a stage or podium, look strange when used during an online presentation. Clearly, you need prompts. Keeping the key points of an online presentation in front of your eyes is the right move to conveniently keep your presentation on track. But why utilize paper for this purpose? What will the eco-activists say? Presenting with cards in your hands will make you look ridiculous, like a character in a comedy – movie directors like to play up this situation. Put all of your cues on the screen and use them to your heart’s content, without distracting the audience’s attention with the archaic use of paper.

  • Do not overload your presentation with small details. To our way of thinking, this is a trap that most presenters fall into. It seems to them that by including more details about every nuance of their product, the higher the likelihood is that it will be bought. In fact, a long and detailed narration of what each button is designed to do is very tiring for the audience. And most importantly, drowning in an abundance of detail, the audience can no longer distinguish the main point that you wanted to convey to them from the secondary points. Remember – a presentation’s purpose is to interest potential customers in your product, goods, or solution, not to provide an instruction manual for its use.


  • Do not create text slides. Maybe you have already been advised not to pause for the audience to read what is written on the slides. Or perhaps someone has even advised you not to turn your presentation into a voiceover-style recital of the slides’ text. That’s great advice! But we’ll go further and give you a direct and unequivocal ultimatum: Down with text slides! Audiences don’t like them. Your slides should have pictures. At most it can have six words occupying no more than a quarter of the slide’s area. Another great solution is video slides. Keep in mind that visual information is digested 60,000 times faster than textual information, and the presence of video in a presentation dramatically increases the likelihood of conversion. 


  • Don’t use an academic style. Many of us have been influenced by schools, colleges, and universities in our ideas about proper public speaking. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see presenters working in an academic, over professional manner. Now ask yourself, do memories of being in a class or lecture hall belong in your collection of fond memories? I’ll bet that for most of us it doesn’t. Audiences, in this sense, are no different from any other human being. So, immediately drop the academic style from your presentation toolkit. Even if you’re a professor, why don’t you try a different style of presentation? One that won’t dull your audience in a sleepy stupor? 


  • Don’t give your presentation when you are sick or in a bad mood. You often come across presenters who demonstrate “heroism” and conduct events no matter their mental or physical condition. The show must go on and all that. This is wrong, even if you apologize to the audience for being less than your best. For the most part, audiences will be sympathetic to your situation. However, your coughing, sneezing, and red eyes will be a constant distraction from the essence of your presentation. If you are sick or some life event has knocked you off track such that you can’t pull yourself together – it’s better to ask one of your colleagues to replace you or reschedule the presentation. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to cancel it altogether. Anything is better than creating an association between a sick person and the product being presented.


  • Do not turn advice into dogma. We left this point for last, because we consider it one of the most important, not only in the art of presentation, but also for life in general. Regardless of who gave them or what recommendations they gave, never turn a piece of advice into a piece of legislation. This is true even when speaking of our advice. Each situation is unique and requires a specific approach. If experience and/or intuition tells you that you need to act contrary to what is generally accepted – do what you think is right. After all, one of the most important purposes of any rule is to stimulate curiosity and the desire to break it.


Good luck, successful presentations, and high income!


Source: Pitch Avatar Blog

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