10 Signs You Are Winging It on a Presentation

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10 Signs That Tell Others You Are Winging Your Presentation Watch Out_not prepared for presentation

Perhaps the alarm didn’t go off. Or you got out of the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps the laptop on which all your office data was stored died on you at the eleventh hour. Or the worst-case scenario! You simply forgot. Ouch! Whatever be the reason, we can all agree that unexpected disasters only seem to occur on the day of an important meeting. Murphy’s law, if you will!

On days like these, you have no other option but to ‘wing it’, create on-the-go, distract, smile and hope for the best. Maybe you’ve done it before (and wondered if your polite client knew what you were up to!). Here are some tell-tale signs to watch out for, that reveal if you are winging it on a presentation. Keep an eye on them to wing it right!

‘Something different’

It is the day of the big meeting and you announce uncharacteristically that you have experimented with a ‘unique’ or ‘out-of-the box’ presentation. Boom! That’s a warning trigger right there!

‘Different’, ‘unconventional’ and ‘unusual’, are nothing but the first cousins of the word – ‘unprepared’. Giving spontaneous presentations may sound brilliant and they are, but only if you go about them with great deal of self-assurance, some structure and surprisingly a lot of preparation!

More: 10 Things To Do To Make Meetings More Productive

Lists, lists and more

This is one dead giveaway you can spot from a mile. No decent presentation, not even the ones made by second-grade kids, are simply a bullet point list without the meat. So when you announce at the meeting that your slides are deliberately sparse to keep it ‘to the point’ but offer no additional insights like relevant statistics, industry comparisons or graphs, you make it obvious.

It won’t take too long for your colleagues to figure out that your presentation is a labour of love that was conjured up in the 20 minutes you take to commute to work.

Distracting images or videos

Aww cute kittens sleeping inside Easter baskets! Who doesn’t love them? But unless you work in a pets’ food company or for a company that makes Easter baskets, linking videos to your presentation that are unrelated to the agenda of the meeting screams ‘Winging’ with a capital W.

Monday morning meetings are supposed to make you squirm in your seat (and question the reason of your existence) so if your presentation is full of animated clipart or has the antics of wild animals, you can bet that the fillers (no matter how feel good they may be) are covering up for a hastily thrown up presentation.

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Uneven fonts and template

You press play and the opening slide has a 12-point Arial headline in peach (on a white background!) that everyone strains to read. Literally, a dull start. You are forced to read the text aloud, but it’s not easy for you either! The bullet point text seems to be dancing around from one slide to another with different styles and sizes to boot!

“PowerPoint seems to be acting up today” is your sheepish defense but you know you can do better. For starters, you must avoid copying and pasting text from random websites and sending it over for a presentation without running it through for an edit. Watch out for ‘Lorem Ipsum,’ the default placeholder text. If it is in your presentation, you are in for trouble!

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Jargon: Here, there and everywhere

Didn’t complicated business jargon go extinct with the dinosaurs? Apparently not! Here’s a well-kept secret— they are a winger’s best friend! When you don’t put in the requisite efforts to make a presentation look good, the least you can do is make it ‘sound’ important and revolutionary. Right? Err..not really.

You start by asking your colleagues to be ‘blue sky dreamers’ so you can ‘peel the onion’ and let it ‘wash its own face’. This may be followed by you suggesting a ‘open the kimono’ approach that can lead to cutting edge solutions’. As your colleagues try to make sense of your words, you hope you are all ‘singing the same tune’ and invite them for a ‘thought shower’! Have a good feeling about how this will end? We don’t either!

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All or nothing!

You may know this already, but it doesn’t hurt to revise. One of the clues to spotting a winged-up presentation is its length. A two-hour presentation with K Pop music, animated characters and loud slide transitions as opposed to the presentation that starts and finishes before you can say hello are both chugging on the same fuel – zero substance.

Psst…here’s another hint – keep a check on the pauses. If your spiel runs nonstop like a car without brakes or the pauses in between are so painfully long that the others don’t mind paying to get the words out, you are subtly telling everyone you have no idea what you’re doing out there.

Unexpected breaks

Two minutes into the presentation, you stop for a longish sip of water. Is this tap water? You could be allergic! The housekeeping staff is summoned. It is bottled water. There is relief all over. The presentation can resume.

Five minutes later, you request for a restroom break and suggest that the rest of the group ‘brainstorm’ while you get back. Ten minutes later you arrive and request someone to update you on what you missed. You meticulously add the key points from the short discussion into your presentation and elaborate them like they were part of your original slides! Classic winging it!

Typos and spelling errors

When the first slide of the presentation reads “THE RICE AND FALL OF CRYPSO CURRENCY”, you know how this is going to end. Not goog. Sorry, good. As harmless as they are, typos thrive in an environment of stress, short deadlines and a tendency to ‘just get it over with’. And when is there a ripe occasion for such an environment to develop? When you have to wing it, of course! Brace yourself if that is the case.

You might have somehow pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute but if your presentation is full of ‘who’s/whose, accept/except, effect/affect type of errors, it reveals the haste you had to resort to, to put it together.

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Creating a ‘fall guy’

Call it ‘smart utilization of available resources’ or ‘sneaky’ but creating a ‘fall guy’ to make up for the deficiencies in your presentation is a classic sign that you are winging it. How does this work? Simple. You turn up for the presentation with a bare skeleton of talking points. At various points of your presentation whenever you need data to support your findings, you turn to your fall guy- good old John who loves number crunching and industry statistics. “John can perhaps shed more light on this” or “John, would you like to add to this?” are classic baits! Put in a good word or two about John at the end and you have successfully winged it like a pro.

Related: Managers: Follow these Dos and Don’ts To Win Over Your Team

Avoiding the Q&A session

What do all spontaneous (or ill prepared) presenters dread the most? The Q&A session. One to one, direct and devoid of clipart (ha!), master wingers have to be at the top of their game to navigate one. So how do they do that? A ‘medical emergency’ pops up right before questions are to be fielded. Some fib to the best of their ability and promise to ‘get back ASAP’ if they have no clue but the top prize goes to the seasoned ones who take every question with nonchalance and either direct it to some unsuspecting colleague or deflect it back with a ‘what do you think?’ remark!

Apart from keeping an eye out for the mistakes above, here is how you can do it right and in style.

Winging it Right or Not!

  • Have a clear structure and ideas, then talk it through: There was once a workplace where there were no visual aids. Yes! It can work if you have your structure in place and the guts to run it through without visual aids. Think stories, case studies and more.
  • Delegate: If you are representing a team through this presentation, then it may not be a bad idea to get everyone together and turn it around in time. Again, having a structure helps and makes delegation efficient. Ensure that team effort is recognized among other team leads and you don’t walk away with the honors alone.
  • Postpone: It is okay to forget and make mistakes. But it is best to not waste everyone’s time. So send that mail to postpone and ask for a fresh slot.
  • Buy everyone lunch and present your ideas then: We did mention doing it in style! This may get everyone together and excited for once!
  • Apologise: Easier said than done, but an honest apology may be better accepted than you think.

Presentations are common in our career and every now and then, we end up winging it. Doing it wrongly could affect our ability to get promoted and earn more money. Take heed from the lessons here and make sure to wing it in style!

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