Whenever you talk with other people, whether it's a presentation, a job interview, or a police interrogation, your attention has only three places to go, this pro has some tips on how to avoid making presentation mistakes.
1) You. Your hair; your shoes; your alibi.
(Good): Some attention needs to go inward because a presentation is a physical act, and you need to notice, from time to time, what you're doing-where you're standing, how your voice is projecting, and so on.
(Bad): Too much attention on YOU makes you feel self-conscious.
(Read More: Mistakes to Avoid When Leading a Meeting )
Recently, I trained a group of facilitators at a large company to lead a workshop on the "Manager's Role in Career Development."
"My biggest fear," said one facilitator, "is that an audience of managers won't listen to me. I'm not a manager. Some days, I'm not even sure I have a career."
Everyone worries about his/her image. The question is, how much?
2) Your material.
(Good): Your material demands attention.
The other day, I watched a senior exec kick off an important meeting. She only spoke for a few minutes, and probably figured she could wing it.
Big mistake. She ended up rambling, losing her audience, and also losing some credibility.
(Read More: Making a Mistake Does Not Mean Your Career Is Over .)
All she really needed were a few things-a strong opening, a strong close, and a focused message-to make a big difference.
(Bad): If you're too focused on the material, you get buried in details-too many Power Point slides, too many bulleted lists, too much information.
You forget how little people remember.
3) Your audience.
(Good): The best presenters focus on the audience. Suppose, for example, you're presenting that workshop on Managing Career Development.
"Think of someone," you ask your audience, "who made a big difference in your career. Could be anyone-a parent, a past manager, a former parole officer. What did he/she do?"
Then, you relate their answers to a few best practices, and you ask your audience to assess themselves against those practices.
You're still doing a lot of talking, but it feels conversational. And your audience stays engaged for one simple reason: it's about them.
(Bad): You're overly concerned with your audience's emotional state. If someone looks bored and then-oh, no!-walks out, you feel distraught.
You've confused their reactions with your self-worth. But they don't need to love you. Because it's not about you.
Tip: Practice. Practice makes you less self-conscious, and more comfortable with your material. Practice frees your attention.
Then, when it's time to speak, check your appearance, check your talking points. But focus on your audience.
(Read More: Career Advice: How Focused Are You? )