From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA – PA Life Club

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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Speeches can be inspiring, motivating and moving – think of the powerful impact of Martin Luther King’s words “I have a dream” in his historic address to civil rights supporters, which still resonate 50 years later.

At the other end of the scale, of course, we have corporate presentations, which are often as dull as the proverbial dishwater and are likely to have you snoozing, if not actually snoring, in your seat. Good news, then, that the lovely folk at Fresh Tracks (visit them at have kindly supplied a handy checklist of gaffes to avoid that you can use to brief the boss next time he decides to step up to the podium.

Self-promotion: while it may be tempting to bang your own drum, you’ll find it pays to keep personal remarks to yourself so as not to alienate your audience.

Confusing slides: don’t cram your slides with boring bullet points or illegible tables. Try to interact with the audience rather than bombarding them with images – and remember that a picture paints a thousand words.

Failing to rehearse: do you admire the work of Frankie Boyle or Michael McIntyre? The words may appear to simply trip off their silver tongues, but in reality they have rehearsed what they were going to say to within an inch of their lives, so your exec needs to follow suit.

Reliving past glories: don’t dwell on the past – it’s dead and buried and your manager will be too if he keeps harking back to it; it’s the future the audience wants to hear about.

Using jargon: technical language and complicated acronyms are a major turn-off. Speak to the delegates like you’re chatting to mates down the pub and you’ll keep them on side.

Forgetting to make eye contact: like any conversation, the use of body language is essential to convey the message. If you don’t make eye contact with the audience you’ll come across about as trustworthy as a dodgy second-hand car dealer.

Not enough story-telling: What do Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories have in common? They both speak to people’s love of engaging with a subject via gripping stories. If you don’t use lively examples of scenarios, and throw in the odd, compelling allegory or two, your audience is likely to depart in droves.