Three Mistakes 1 Million Cups Presenters Commonly Make

The 1 Million Cups Organizer Summit this week brought together organizers from over 30 states across the country–everywhere from Fargo, N.D. to Tampa, Fla. The summit allows for the organizers to discuss everything from how their community is growing (or not growing) to how they can better help the entrepreneurs they encounter. What stood out to me most was the common mistakes presenters make during their 1 Million Cups presentations.

Presenters don’t rehearse their presentations.

You’d think it would be common sense to practice a presentation before you give it to an audience (that can range anywhere from 20 to 100 people), but many organizers commented that it’s not uncommon to see entrepreneurs get up on stage and give a presentation, that is very obviously, for the first time.

This is one of the easiest things to correct. Yes, it takes time to craft a good presentation, but as they say ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’. Why wouldn’t you take this opportunity to improve your presentation skills? Even more, why wouldn’t you take this opportunity to present your company in a light that makes it memorable. Maybe they’ll even become an ambassador for it—telling everyone they know about this new, engaging startup.

Nathan Gold, our ‘Powerful Presentations’ series expert, explains how you can prepare yourself even further by recording your presentation, and then watching it back to see where improvements can be made. Watching ourselves on video is not always pretty, but it can expose us to the idiosyncrasies that we do subconsciously or the areas we aren’t quite explaining in a comprehensive way.

Presenters are too focused on their product or service.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs get so excited about the product or service they’ve created, they rush to tell the audience about it before explaining why they should care. One organizer commented, “I have to tell them to start at the beginning, just to get them to explain why they created this thing or why they care about it.”

It’s easy to get too close to the metal, but it makes it difficult to explain to people what problem your product solves or need it fills if you’re too busy explaining every feature and intricacy. Remember, this is likely the audience’s first time hearing about your product/service. Bring them along on the journey of why you first cared about this thing enough to start a business around it.

Nathan often says “start with the Why, How and What, then build out from there.” The audience won’t care about all the features and facets of your business if they don’t even know what your business is.

Presenters fall apart during Q&A.

I’ve seen this more times than I’d like to admit.  An entrepreneur can have the best presentation in the world—timed perfectly, the right number of slides, perfect sized font—but if they can’t answer any questions about their business, it won’t matter.

Preparing for Q&A ahead of time is just as important as preparing and rehearsing for a presentation. A properly done presentation should get an audience so fired up about your business that they can’t wait to ask questions. And if an entrepreneur hasn’t properly organized additional information to share, the presentation loses all steam.

Nathan reminds us that “people spend all of this time prepping a presentation, but forget about the Q&A—the thing, in reality, you actually spend most of your time on during the real presentation.”

As you are practicing your presentation, write down all the questions you can think of that someone might ask. Then, go through and prepare your answers. Want to go one step further? Record yourself answering questions. It’s one more way to see how you react to questions, both mentally and physically. Prepping for the Q&A session can help keep you relaxed after the presentation, keep you from getting defensive during a tough question, and keep the energy of the room high after a great presentation.

Keep these common mistakes in mind as you prepare for your next presentation. Your presentation should be a living thing, continually evolving as your business does.

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