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Sure Ways to Kill a Business Presentation (and your Career)


Not everyone is a natural at making business presentations. Fortunately, most audiences know this and are willing to give a presenter the benefit of the doubt. After all, they, too, have probably made business presentations, and they know what it’s like. Some mistakes are easily forgivable, but here are some actions that will hopelessly sink your presentation, and perhaps your entire career.

1. Rather than simply admitting you’re nervous, blame lack of time, the printing department, your secretary – basically anyone or anything other than yourself – for any problems with the presentation you are about to give.

2. Don’t bother looking nice for your presentation. That same stained dress shirt you wear every day is fine. Leaning on the lectern is good, as is chewing gum while giving your presentation, stopping to re-tie your shoe, and pausing mid-sentence to undo and redo your ponytail. Dirt under your fingernails will make you seem like “one of them,” so don’t bother cleaning it.

3. Print out your presentation and read it word for word, preferably in a dull monotone. Alternately, if you don’t have time to write complete sentences, just read the points verbatim from your PowerPoint slides. It will help your audience fall into a nice, relaxing sleep.

4. Audiences love a good data dump, so be sure to recite as many statistics as you possibly can, with no context to help them make sense. It doesn’t matter whether the numbers you give out are relevant, accurate, or made up on the spot: people love statistics and 98% of them believe anything that has a number attached to it.

5. Before your presentation, Google the phrase “worst management jargon” and be sure to include as many phrases from the search results as you can. Phrases like “touch base,” “low hanging fruit,” and “raising the bar” are hugely popular with audiences. Turn nouns into verbs (“incentivize”) and adjectives (“impactful”) every chance you get.

6. Select a segment of the population and tell a joke that insults them. It could be a racist joke, a sexist joke, whatever: just make sure you make yourself look better by making them look inferior. Remember, humor isn’t funny unless someone is unfairly singled out in an offensive manner.

7. Use 15 minutes more than the amount of time you were allotted. After all, your presentation is really important. You’ll really be popular if you sound like you’re about to finish up for good, then suddenly “remember” another involved, boring point you need to make.

8. Preparation is a big no-no. Especially with presentations when you’re on a business trip, forget all about your presentation for a few days beforehand so you’ll have the element of surprise when it’s time to present your information. You’ll appear more “human” if you give the impression of having no idea what your presentation is supposed to be about.

Follow these tips and you may never have to make another business presentation again!