benefits presentation, open enrollment, mistakes

Open enrollment season shines the spotlight on HR pros’ presentation skills. After all, it’s up to you to explain what your company’s benefits plan has to offer. Are you up to the task? 

To help ensure you are, here are 15 common mistakes you want to avoid during benefits presentations (none of these are quite as disastrous as the dream where you’re presenting in your underwear, but they’re still pretty bad):

  1. Turning your back to the audience. It can come off as rude. Even if you have to point to a presentation slide behind you, it’s possible to do so without completely turning around.
  2. Only staring at one spot in the audience. This makes you look nervous, and it fails to get everyone engaged.
  3. Avoiding eye contact. Good eye contact exudes confidence, engagement and concern. Avoiding eye contact makes you seem skittish.
  4. Crossing your arms. It sends a subtle message that you’re closed off and defensive.
  5. Standing in the same spot for the entire presentation. Not only does this make your presentation seem stale, it also makes you more likely to drift off mentally. Movement helps the brain stay alert.
  6. Sitting when you should stand. There are times when it’s appropriate to sit during open enrollment presentations, like when you’re speaking to managers in a small board room. But if you’re in a large conference area, and all the seats are facing forward, you should absolutely stand (and move around). It makes you appear knowledgeable and engaged.
  7. Pad posture. Hanging your head or slouching your shoulders can make you look weary and unconfident.
  8. Placing hands on your hips. This gives off a hint of arrogance or impatience.
  9. Repeating gestures … over and over. When you make the same hand movements again and again, in quick succession, it becomes very distracting to the audience.
  10. Fidgeting. This is a dead giveaway that you’re nervous, and nervousness is distracting.
  11. Playing with hair or clothes. Typically, presenters do this because they’re nervous, but onlookers see these as signs someone isn’t comfortable — either with themselves or with the material they’re presenting.
  12. Not smiling. If you don’t seem happy to be there, employees won’t be. Plus, it prevents them from wanting to ask questions and engage in conversations.
  13. Complaining. Of course, you don’t plan to complain about your benefits plan. Still, it’s important to remember that complaining — whether it’s about technical difficulties with your presentation or something one of your benefits providers did — makes you look negative.
  14. Making excuses. It’s natural to want to make excuses for failings (perhaps you weren’t able to keep some popular benefits you offered last year). But it’s usually better to just take responsibility while explaining what happened.
  15. Exaggerating. Obviously, you want to make your benefits plans sound as good as can be. But be careful not to exaggerate what they can do or how much money certain benefits can save employees. Also, be mindful that you’re not passing along opinions as facts.

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