John Doorbar


7 Presenting Mistakes To Avoid: A little fairy tale

Dear Professional Communicator,

Business managers in my seminars here in Germany have asked me to write an article on the key success factors for great presenters. I am very pleased to send this to you.

In this article Tim, a middle level manager has a dream in which he sees himself making 7 mistakes in his presentations.

Tim Case has made so many mistakes that he finds himself in court.
The judge brings 7 charges…

  • Charge number 1 – Absolutely no impact

  • Charge number 2 – No visual impact!

  • Charge number 3 – No goals!

  • Charge number 4 – No structure

  • Charge number 5 – Not engaging your audience

  • Charge number 6 – Using negative words

  • Charge number 7 – Not having a plan

I hope you enjoy the article!

Warmest wishes,


CEO Presenting Scandal

Tim Case on trial for blatantly wasting colleagues´ valuable time in the boardroom…and everywhere else he presents!

“What a nightmare, he is, this Tim Case. Couldn´t organise a piss-up in a brewery,
let alone a brilliant presentation”
(Comment of Tim´s judge overheard in a pub on the evening following Tim´s court appearance)

7 Charges

The TV camera swings over to focus on a weekly presentation meeting without any focus whatsoever. His managers ask Tim to make a case for having these get-togethers at all.

Harvey: Why on earth do we have these presentation meetings, Tim?

Tim: It is the weekly departmental presentation.

Harvey puts his head in his hands in frustration.

Harvey: But they are a waste of bloody time, Tim.


Tim, who is exhausted because of his over-filled diary, feels himself drifting off to a welcome sleep…

Tim sees himself in his own dream. Strange!

He finds himself in court facing a very angry-looking judge.


Tim: Where am I?

Judge: You are in court, facing 7 very serious charges.

Judge: All your managers are here to give evidence and each of them has something important to say. You will listen carefully to each one of them.

Tim: But they are my managers… they should listen to me.

Judge: Silence!!

Tim takes a step back in surprise and almost falls out of the dock.

Tim: But, I should be presenting to them.

Judge: Silence, I said!!

Tim: But you have got no evidence.

Judge: You will be surprised how much evidence we have.

Take you mind back to last month, Monday 13th May. Call Mr Fred Waste.

Mr Waste, who is Tim´s marketing manager, looks at Tim.

Judge: Our first charge, Mr Waste? What is it?

Charge number 1 – Absolutely no impact

Mr Waste: First charge – Absolutely no impact, my lord.

Judge: Can you be a bit more specific?

Mr Waste: Yes, I can. Let´s take the example of Monday 13th May.
Tim´s presentations are a waste of time – Bloody, boring beginnings and endless, eventless endings. He starts late and it seems to me that he has given no thought to his presentations. He is always just winging it.
No prep…
He doesn´t even ask us (his audience) what is important for us. He never does anything interesting at the start and the bitter end finishes up with people just leaving in disgust.

Tim: But my managers are hopeless.

Judge: Enough! If you offend anybody one more time Tim, I will give you seven years – one year for each offence. Better still, hanged!

Tim shuts up and listens.

Judge: The next charge.

Norman Noviz is called. He speaks with a slight Scottish accent.

Charge number 2 – No visual impact!

Mr Noviz: Second charge – No visual impact.

Judge: Can you explain in a little more detail, Mr Noviz. Certainly, my lord.

Noviz looks over at Tim who is looking worried.

Mr Noviz: Basically he just talks at us non-stop. He has no idea as to how to involve us with great visuals. I think it would be great if each of his talks started with an attention-grabber. I have mentioned it time and again…But it goes in one ear, out the other. It seems that he has got absolutely nothing in between!

Tim: You can´t speak to me like that!

Judge: Yes, he can!! You listen and take note!

Next charge. We have Mr Nigel Nogo, sales manager at Nicrosaft, who is going to explain our third charge. Mr Nogo, carry on please.

Charge number 3 – No goals!

Mr Nogo: Thank you my lord. Third charge is: No goals!
Even my 5-year old son can give a talk in a more goal-oriented way than he can. (He points at Tim).

This time Tim just starts to turn blue in anger, but says nothing.

Mr Nogo: Nobody has the slightest idea what Tim wants to achieve by the end of the presentation. Why doesn´t he just say something like:
Today we are going to discuss the new budget. By the end we will have decided how much to allot to whom. Each person will have a to-do list which we will review next time we meet.
Not exactly rocket science, is it, my lord?

Judge: I absolutely agree.

Next charge please. Mr Stuart Struck is called to give evidence.

Judge: Go ahead Mr Struck.

Charge number 4 – No structure

Mr Struck: Fine, sir. Well, mine is charge number 4:
No structure. I have been listening to Tim´s structure-less, time-wasting
useless talks for 7 years now and I have never recognised any structure at all. Maybe Tim is a genius and I am stupid not to be able to follow his wishy-washy twaddle.
(Tim smiles)…or maybe he is just incredibly incapable.

(Tim´s smile disappears)

Tim: Can I wake up now? I have had enough of this dream.

Judge: No way. You wait there and listen carefully to what your managers have to teach you.

Charge number 5 – Not engaging your audience

Judge: Next charge. Charge number 5. – Not engaging your audience. Ms Gauge, would you mind explaining your impression of Tim.

Ms Gauge: Unmemorable would be my best word for him.
No intrinsic motivation and totally unable to motivate anybody, including himself. Dreadful.
He needs to learn to ask questions, be clear on his own vision for the company. He should answer questions in a thoughtful and respectful way.

Judge: Are you listening? This charge is an absolutely dreadful charge, Case.

Tim: I do my best… sometimes my managers are not interested in what I have to say!

Judge: No wonder!
Never, ever blame your audience. You are responsible for everything
that happens in your presentation. No wonder they do not remember what you say. You are one of the most boring managers I have ever met.

Tim: You can´t speak to me like that.

Judge: Do not blame me. It is your dream.

Let´s hear the penultimate charge.

Judge: Mrs Pat Possy, would you please read out your charge?

Charge number 6 – Using negative words

Mrs Possy: Certainly. Charge 6. Using negative words. How can he expect to give a good presentation if he is always giving negative messages? Positive choice of words is vital to create the right tone in your talk. He says, we
should do this or can´t do that. This is a recipe for negativity and low energy followed by poor results. Absolutely deadly!

Judge: So how are you feeling? Guilty or not guilty?

Tim: Guilty, my lord… , and I am sorry I have wasted peoples´ time.

Judge Finally, a positive sign. Incredible. Maybe there is hope. But you have a final charge. And the most serious one!

Judge: Please call Ms Plane. She has a charge that shocked me.

Charge number 7 – Not having a plan.

Ms Plane: Charge 7, my lud. Not having a plan. How can this so-called CEO ever hope to make brilliant presentations when the only notes he makes are those scribbled on a beer mat! Unbelievable. Think of the 6 ps “PPPPPP.”

Tim looks blank and raises his eyebrows questioningly.

Ms Plane: Proper, planning, prevents, particularly, poor performance!
Collect information about your audience. Then put yourself in their shoes.
Think about what would help them the most.
Then, write down your ideas. Prepare your slides.
Rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse again.
Then and only then, present to real, live colleagues!

Judge: Absolutely, Mr Plane! Well said.
So how do you plead, Tim Case?

Tim: Guilty my lord.

Judge: For these 7 offences, my official statute book says, 7 years.
I am going to give you one last chance to avoid this sentence.
But only in one case, Tim Case.

In your case, if you can summarize the main points of this dream brilliantly I might be lenient.

Tim: Thank you my lord.

Tim´s summary

Tim summarizes (surprisingly well!). His 7 managers cannot believe their eyes.

1. Create impact
Start and end in a way they do not expect. Blow their socks off at the end. Use your
3-point close – 3 things you want them to take home with them and remember.

2. Visual impact
Create brilliant visuals. Read Duarte´s books on how to do this.

3. Set goals
Make sure you know what you want to achieve in your presentation.
Measure to what extent you have achieved the goals you set.

4. Structure your talk
Be sure to have a logical sequence to your talk. Make it easy to follow.

5. Engage your audience
Make sure the audience is involved all the time. Keep it snappy. Make them smile and laugh. Tell great anecdotes. Inspire!

6. Use positive words
Establish a great atmosphere by choosing powerful words.

7. Have a plan
Be crystal clear throughout your talk by following your plan, based on careful research and by practising.

Judge: Actually, I am surprised by how well you have listened to your managers. I suppose there must be a first time for everything! Will you promise to change, Case?


Tim slowly finds himself returning to the room after his mid-morning nap.

Tim: Yes, I promise I will change…I promise…
(Tim is now awake and surprised)
Goodness, where am I?

Harvey: In our meeting…You were presenting the 7 keys to good presenting.

Tim: I do apologise, I must have fallen asleep.

Harvey: No, really – it was the first time I have ever understood what you wanted to say. A real miracle! I must be dreaming!

Tim: Thank you, my lud…whoops sorry, I mean, Harvey.

Harvey looks over his glasses at Tim, shakes his head and smiles.

Ricarda Kiel