Anyone who has sat through a bad presentation knows what can go wrong. Maybe the speaker rambled on, or he spoke in a monotone. Maybe he read slide after slide. Or he punctuated every third word with an “er” an “um” or a “like.”

When your presentation sucks, it is about you. Make it about your story instead.

At an IABC/Washington meeting last week, John Gundlach said that most presentations fall flat because people spend all their time preparing and almost no time practicing. His rule of thumb: 60 percent preparation, 40 percent practice. In other words, if you are giving a speech (or drafting a presentation for your boss, a colleague, or someone else to give), you need to schedule in plenty of time for rehearsals.

Gundlach discussed the three principles of great presentations:

1. Preparation–Good presentations are about both the content and how you tell the story (which is also where “practice, practice, practice” comes in).

2. Performance–The most important element of any presentation is the presenter, so it’s important that you “engage the audience, be real, act confidently, and be in the moment.” Gundlach cited statistics to back up his point: the audience pays only minor attention to your words (7 percent); the bulk of the focus is on tone (38 percent) and your visual look (55 percent).

3. Persuasion–A presentation is a transfer of emotion, so it’s important that you bring your passion in order to engage your audience. Gundlach suggested that it’s useful to network beforehand so that you’re formed  personal bonds before you take the stage. (It also makes you human and approachable, which is certainly something I appreciate in a speaker.)

What have you learned from sitting through good (and bad) presentations?

Photo by Jon-Eric Melsaeter (Flickr).