Presentation Tips

9 Surprising Reasons Your Presentation Just Tanked

Reasons of Presentation Failure

Every time you get up in front of an audience, you have a chance to do something great: present new ideas, inspire, create lasting change. You also have the chance to do something awful – namely, tank.

Here are 9 reasons why your last presentation might have tanked:

You Forgot to Introduce Yourself

Your audience most likely doesn’t know you, or at least not everyone in the audience will, so be sure to make a point to introduce yourself. If someone doesn’t know who you are or why you’re there, why should they listen to you? It’s also a good idea to put your contact information up on the screen so anyone who wishes to contact you after can do so.

You Stared at Your Feet

We are speculating, but we’re going to guess your feet don’t give a hoot about what you have to say (which is why feet stink) so why are you directing your entire presentation at them?

Maintaining eye contact with your audience is paramount to a successful presentation. If you visually disconnect from your listeners, they will stop listening and you’ll never get their attention back.

So, scan the audience and pick some friendly faces to land on (you’ll be surprised how many there actually are out there) and speak directly to them.

You Didn’t Move

Unless a group of FBI agents ran into the room and shouted, “Don’t move!” you should have moved. Standing perfectly still in one place the entire time is B-O-R-I-N-G. You seem bored when you do it, as if your topic doesn’t excite even you.

You most likely wear a wireless mic for your presentation and don’t have to stand behind a podium, so move around the entire stage as if it were a theatrical stage. And even if you DO have to sometimes stand behind a podium, it doesn’t mean you can’t move your upper body for effect.

You Used Outdated Information

How many people do you think are making a living selling VHS tapes? Zero. There are zero people in this country making a living from selling VHS tapes, because no one (except perhaps my mother-in-law) uses a VHS recorder anymore. They are outdated and no one cares about them.

Your audience will not care or stay engaged with you if you are feeding them old, outdated information. Keep your examples current because current is relevant and relevant is interesting.

You Let Everyone Know You Got Lost

Most presenters at some point lose their place. They get distracted by someone’s cough or their blood sugar dips and they space out for a second – it happens. The worst thing you can do is get flummoxed and announce to the whole audience that you just messed up or don’t know where to go next.

No one will ever know you mess up unless you tell everyone you mess up. Remember, your presentation is really a conversation with your audience, nothing has to be so set in stone that if you say a word you did not rehearse, you are entirely thrown.

Just stay calm and move on.

You Didn’t Research Your Audience

Just as you shouldn’t assume your audience knows who YOU are, don’t assume you know who THEY are. You’ve got to do some research to know who will be listening to you speak. What are their interests and pain points? How can you or your organization help them? What specific data and insights will appeal to them and how can you best communicate these?

Do your homework and your presentation will be a hit.

You Didn’t Check Out the Venue Ahead of Time

What’s the first thing an animal does when brought into a new space? It checks out every inch of that space until it knows the smells, sounds and layout by heart. Bring a new dog into your house and that dog will spend half an hour checking out the space before finding a quiet place to curl up and take a nap.

You’ve got to be like an alpha dog and check out the venue. How are the chairs arranged? Is the lighting okay? What about a sound check? Does all of your equipment work? The more prepared you are, the less likely you’ll be thrown by anything.

You Relied on Your PowerPoint Slides

Your PowerPoint slides should support and enhance your presentation, but you shouldn’t rely on them. Slides shouldn’t be so overloaded with text that both you and the audience spend the entire time simply reading them.

Your slides should be like salt – they definitely enhance the flavor of your presentation – but too much will overpower your presentation and make it unpalatable.

You Ended Suddenly

Did you suddenly end your presentation without highlighting your key takeaways, adding a call-to-action, or opening up the floor to questions? Last impressions are just as important as first ones, so leave a good one.

Giving a great presentation is as much about not tanking as it is about being great. If you don’t do these 9 things during your next presentation, you’re sure to be memorable for a good reason.


  1. Hi Ashish,

    Another point would be someone giving a presentation on a topic they have no right talking about. They are not knowledgeable about the topic and it would be very clear when the presenter is not able to answer questions related to the topic.

  2. All good points but you left something very important out. We need to focus on the benefits of what our clients are looking for and use their words to call them out of the audience. We want a she/he gets me response that causes those need us to see and hear that we have the answers to their burning questions.

    There really is no point in speaking on stage if you aren’t prepared with the perfect words to draw in your clients. Once you’ve got that figured out then step on the stage and remember the information provided in this post.

  3. Presentation failures are like zombies that eat up your courage and drain your energy. Don’t let them kill you. Choose to move forward to achieve a winning presentation.

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