How to give a lousy presentation in 15 easy steps

by Carmine Gallo

Giving truly great presentations requires skill, work and practice. Giving catastrophic presentations is far easier. So if you want to take the easy way out and look like a rank amateur, here are 15 surefire tips to guarantee that you leave a really, really bad impression.

1. Misspell words. Failing to check the spelling on your slides shows a complete lack of care. It’s the easiest way to look unprofessional.

2. Create distracting color combinations. Blue on green is hard to read.

3. Use inconsistent fonts. Professional PowerPoint designers will use no more than two, perhaps three, font styles in an entire presentation. But why stop there?

4. Use a really small font size. If you want to drive people crazy, say: “I know you can’t read this, but if you could, here is what it would say ….”

5. Insert improperly sized photos that are stretched to fit the slide. Images used in PowerPoint slides should be at least 900 pixels wide by 720 high. If you really want to look bad, however, find small thumbnail images and stretch them.

6. Look completely disinterested. I attended a conference in which the keynote speaker hadn’t bothered to create a presentation and just had a few handwritten notes. That’s fine, if you can pull it off. This speaker could not.

7. Look disheveled. If you really want to leave a bad impression, wear old jeans, worn, dirty shoes and a stained shirt.

8. Read every word of each slide. Better yet, turn your back to the audience and read your slides word for word.

9. Don’t bother with a backup plan. If you need a live Internet connection to demo a site, don’t make a screen shot of it just in case.

10. Don’t practice. At all. Practicing out loud takes work and will make you look too polished. Just wing it.

11. Call attention to your mistakes. If you want to show a complete lack of preparation, say, “Oops, I have no idea how that slide got in there.”

12. Open with an offensive or off-color joke. Half your audience will walk out immediately and you’ll have succeeded in making a really bad impression right out of the gate.

13. Use wild animations. Letting text simply fade into a slide is way too straightforward. Especially when PowerPoint offers you the bounce, the boomerang, and the dreaded “neutron.”

14. Use cartoon clip art. Why spend $3 on high-resolution photos from a stock photography service when there are free cartoons?

15. Use ancient presentation software. PowerPoint 2003 served its purpose but there’s no comparison with Power­­Point 2007, which is simply a better tool.

Carmine Gallo is the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular keynote speaker and author of several books, including the best-sellers, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs and his new book, The Power of Foursquare. Follow him on Twitter: carminegallo