20 Business Presentation Mistakes: Are you making these career-damaging blunders? – Part 1

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve coached thousands of executives, leaders and corporate employees on how to make their business presentations memorable. Over the years, I’ve regularly run across the same presentation mistakes. Are you making these mistakes in your business presentations?


  1. Presenting abstract ideas without specific examples. Think of an abstraction as hiding the details. Abstraction is your enemy.If you are communicating abstract concepts, give extra preparation to vivid analogies and word pictures that can be visualized by your audience.[1]Messages that come out of your mouth need to be shorter, simpler, and less complex than messages you put in press releases, columns, brochures, manuals, and books.1

 There are four levels of abstraction by S.I Hayakawa:

  • Level 4 Abstraction: the broadest and the most abstract, it is just a concept: e.g., Society
  • Level 3 Abstraction: Broad group with scarce specifics: Most people
  • Level 2 Abstraction: More details: Spoiled Child
  • Level 1 Abstraction: Specific: My little sister, Kate.

The problem I encounter with many business presenters is they talk at Level 4 and Level 3 abstractions and assume that   the audience understands. The problem with this thinking is it leaves your message open to a wide range of interpretations.

 Fix: Marry your abstract concept with a specific example.

  1. Jargon. The problem with jargon is it stops people from understanding your message. Overused jargon today: –Scalable, Cloud Computing or Supply Chain Management. 


    Fix: Just to be safe, define your jargon. Verbally or in a handout.

  2. Trite Expressions or Clichés: In North American business we have:
    • Pour the Kool-aid
    • Drink the Kool-aid (that’s been poured)
    • Move the needle
    • Think outside the box
    • Best practices
    • My favorite: sculpting fog

  Fix: Examine your presentation for trite expressions or clichés and remove them.

  1. Sameness. According to Patricia Fripp (http://www.fripp.com/), Sameness is the enemy of the presenter. Sameness means a lack of variety. You present the same way throughout your presentation. Or worse, you look and sound like all of the other presenters before you. For example, you lecture from start to finish; or present various spreadsheets, charts or text. There is no variety.
    Fix: Change your delivery method every 5 minutes. Switch from slides to a story; from a story to group discussion. Change it up and add variety.
  2. PowerPoint® Parades. One mind-numbing slide after another. Typically all text. Lack of variety (see Sameness).

    Fix: Ask yourself the following question. What is the best way for me to make this point without slides? Use only images. Cut the number of slides in half. Then cut them in half, again. Challenge yourself, even more, give your next presentation unplugged. No technology.

  3. Data Dumps. Thinking that data is the most important part of the presentation. You dump a ton of data. People don’t want data; they want your findings. They want your bottom-line analysis of the data.
    Fix: Give people results. Skip the data. Have handouts ready if they want the raw data.

I have fourteen more typical business presentation mistakes. Stay tuned for my next post. I’d love to hear from you. What common business presentations mistakes you’ve witnessed? You can begin your comment by saying, “I have this co-worker…”

About Ed Tate:

Ed Tate is an award-winning international Keynote speaker, trainer, and author. Worldwide he is known as “The Speaker Who Energizes, Educates, and Entertains.”

Using the principles, he teaches, Ed Tate won the “American Idol of Public Speaking” and became the 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking. This award is Toastmasters International’s most prestigious speaking award among its 332,000+ members.

In 2008, Ed earned the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association. It is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform skill. It is an honor bestowed on less than 12% of its members.


Tags: Business Presentations, Public Speaking Mistakes

[1] TJ Walker – Media Training Worldwide