This is the second in a series of posts extracted from my Presentation Tips Video from last year. You can jump directly to this tip in the video if you'd rather watch it than read it. While this tip is not particularly technical, it's a big enough problem I encounter often enough to mention it.
One of the quickest ways to immediately turn your audience off is to begin the presentation with an apology or caveat. Consider the following statements from your audience's perspective.
I didn't have much time to prepare.
Why should your audience spend their valuable time listening to an underprepared presentation? Respect your audience by budgeting sufficient prep time to create a compelling talk.
I hope this makes sense.
You should never present something you aren't sure makes sense. Run your outline by a freind or colleague before ever starting to make sure it's coherent and organized. It's also a great idea to do a dry run or two beforehand with someone you trust to give you honest feedback.
I just finished this presentation last night.
To your audience it sounds like you didn't care enough about your topic and their time to put in a serious effort. If I hear this I immediately expect a poor presentation and that's normally what I get.
This is my first time presenting this.
Even if it is your first time with a new presentation, there's little value in stating it. You're only giving your audience a reason to tune out rather than engage.
I'm not very good at presenting.
This is another one of those statements that can only hurt your presentation. If you're nervous, people will generally understand, assuming they even notice. You don't need to declare it.
A good presentation involves a lot of things, but above all confidence. These and similar caveats are generally a symptom of a lack of confidence in your presentation or your ability to present it. If your audience senses a lack of confidence from you, they'll lose confidence in the presentation too.
The best way to combat a crisis of confidence is to prepare, prepare, and prepare. If you're prepared, you'll have no reason to apologize or caveat beforehand, and the confidence will take care of itself.