We live in the age of information where people hardly have time to hear themselves think clearly, let alone absorb the plethora of instant communication they are bombarded with.
That presents a significant challenge in itself for most speakers when they are called upon at work to impress their colleagues with that all important presentation. Intelligent, busy people who are working extremely hard to meet deadlines and deliver unreasonable targets often find themselves just striving for survival in the cut and thrust or corporate complexity.
These 6 ‘white lies’ we often tell ourselves in our haste to impress and get the job done will often hinder rather than help.
1. State of the art software will make me a better presenter
Someone once said to me that ‘the truth is like the centre of town; it doesn’t matter which road you take to get there, the centre of town is the centre of town’. When it comes to presenting, the truth is your presentation isn’t the software—it’s you. When I first started to play tennis I had this brilliant idea that buying the lightest, most expensive racket would improve my game exponentially. It didn’t.
I’ve seen some fabulous presentations given using Keynote and Prezi and I’ve seen some horrendous ones too. The same goes for PowerPoint and just about every other software I’ve seen speakers use.
It’s not about what you have to show, it’s about what you have to say.
No visual aid will ever replace the need for a clear, powerful and beautifully told story designed to inspire change.
Never start with the software. Craft a compelling message and story first and then decide whether you need any ‘tools’ to help bring it to life.
2. My audience expects me to be perfect
The problem with perfection is that in the world of presenting and public speaking, your audience rarely get to see the real you. What they get is a highly polished and ‘slick’ speaker who isn’t really so interested in them because their prime interest is in looking good themselves.
Credibility will always trump perfection so help them to get to know you better and understand why you’re so passionate about your message. Your job is to give them something to help them look and feel good, not yourself.
3. I don’t need to prepare, I’ll just speak from my heart
It’s a nice sentiment but try it and see what happens. Speaking from the heart with belief, energy and passion is a prerequisite to the task in hand but fail to prepare at your peril. Every week in our business we work with presenters who are looking for the shortcuts, the ‘silver bullet’ or ‘magic potion’ that removes the pain of having to prepare thoroughly. We have some news for you. When it comes to connecting with your audience in a way that is clear, powerful and compelling there are no gimmicks or short cuts.
Don’t look for what’s easy, look for what’s right. Research and understand your audience thoroughly, hone your message like a finely tuned piano, craft your story and then practice, practice, practice.
Don’t practice for perfection. Practice so that you know your material inside and out.
4. It’s only really my content that counts
The key to a successful presentation is congruence. That means that you have to deliver your content in a way that resonates with your audience so that they can see that you mean, feel and believe every word you say.
We’ve all endured presentations that sounded content rich but were delivered in a way that left us totally uninspired.
Focus on content, delivery and impact.
Everything you say, show and do and the way you say, show and do it should be aligned to how you want your audience to feel from start to finish.
5. I have to have as few slides as possible
It’s exactly that premise that leads so many presenters into ‘hot water’ and in believing that they ironically cram as much information as they can on to each slide.
The consequence of which is they end up totally confusing their audience as they end up reading the content out loud whilst the audience is trying to read it quietly in their minds at the same time.
If you use slides at all they should be used simply and powerfully to add colour, life and impact to your message. They are like billboards designed to help you visually get a message very quickly and you can use as many as you need to as long as each one is clear, compelling and adds significant value.
Think like a designer.
6. Tell ‘em’ what you’re going to tell ‘em’…Tell ‘em…then tell ‘em’ what you told ‘em’.
In my experience most audiences are comprised of very intelligent and discerning people so you really don’t have to follow the old axiom by repeating yourself as if they didn’t get it the first time. Whilst there is a grain of truth in the old saying, it seems to remove the responsibility for speaker to build a clear and powerful message in the first place that you only have to share once.
Tell ‘em’ like you mean it
Tell ‘em’ so they get it the first time