That potential has been squandered out of corporate fear, ignorance, egotism, conformity, and simple habit.
Lynda Paulson describes the unique qualities that a business presentation offers, as opposed to a simple written report.
What makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal. It’s what people see in our eyes, in our movements and in our actions. It’s what they hear through the tone of our voice. It’s what they sense on a subliminal level. That’s why speaking, to a group or one-on-one, is such a total experience.
Here, Paulson has described the impact of Personal Presence.
It’s the tangible contribution of the messenger to conveying a convincing message. A skilled speaker exudes energy, enthusiasm, savoir faire – the speaker becomes part of the message.
Here is where you become part of the message and bring into play your unique talents and strengths.
Naked Information Overflow
But modern technology has swept the speaker into the background in favor of naked information overflow and pyrotechnics that miss the entire point of the show – namely, communicating with and persuading an audience.
Lots of people are fine with becoming a slide-reading automaton swept into the background, into that indistinguishable mass of grays.
And they’d be happy if you faded into the background, too.
Most people don’t want to compete in the presentation arena.
They would just as soon compete with you for your firm’s spoils on other terms.
If you become an automaton, you cede important personal competitive advantage.
You forfeit an especially powerful opportunity.
The true differentiating power of a presentation springs from the oratorical skills and confidence of the speaker. That, in fact, is the entire point of delivering a presentation – a project or idea has a champion who presents the case in public.
Without that champion – without that powerful presence – a presentation is even less than ineffective. It becomes a bad communication exercise.
It becomes an infuriating waste of a valuable resource – time.
Rise of the Automatons
Today we are left with the brittle shell of a once-powerful communication tool.
Faded is the notion of the skilled public speaker. Gone is the especially powerful presenter enthusiastic and confident, articulate and graceful, powerful and convincing.
Absent is Quintilian’s ideal orator: “The good man, well-spoken.”
We are left with an automaton slide-reader in a business suit.
This is surely a far cry from how we imagine it ought to be – powerful visuals and a confident presenter, in command of the facts and delivering compelling arguments using all the tools at his or her disposal.
This vast wasteland of presentation mediocrity presents you with a magnificent opportunity.
Your choice is to fade into that gray background as yet another corporate mediocrity mimicking the herd. Or to seize the moment to begin developing your presention skills to lift yourself into the rarefied atmosphere of the High Demand Skill Zone.™
Isn’t it time you decided to become an especially powerful business presenter and seize the personal competitive advantage it provides?
Always speak to the people in your audience in ways that move them . . . and this means never, ever wing it.
Offer them something that speaks to them in the language they understand and to the needs they have.
Never wing it.
Always offer them your respect and your heart.
And never wing it.
Does this seem obvious?
That’s the paradox.
We often forget that our audience is the other player in our two-player cooperative game. We mistakenly contrive our message in our terms, saying what we want to say and what we think our audience needs to hear in language that gives us comfort.
Sometimes we elect to go in unprepared, trusting in a cavalier attitude to carry us through . . . winging it in insulting fashion.
Then we blame the audience if they don’t “get it.”
The Curse of Hubris
Too many speakers across the spectrum of abilities never consider the needs of their audience or why they have gathered to hear the message.
Often, a presenter may simply offer an off-the-shelf solution message that isn’t even remotely tailored to the needs of the folks gathered to hear it. Paradoxically, this occurs often when men and women of power and accomplishment address large groups of employees or conference attendees.
Infused with the power and, too often, arrogance and hubris that comes with great success, they believe this success translates into powerful presenting.
They don’t prepare.
They offer standard tropes.
They rattle off cliches.
They pull out shopworn blandishments . . .
. . . and they receive ovations, because those assembled believe that, well, this fellow is successful, so he must know what he’s doing.
What he says, whatever it was, becomes gospel. However he said it becomes accepted practice, no matter how awful.
But what we actually witness from presenters of this type is actually a form of contempt. Presenters from 16 to 60 offer this up too often.
The lack of preparation by any speaker conveys a kind of contempt for the audience and the time of people gathered to listen.
I Read my Own Press Clipping Now
For instance, I recall an occasion of a successful young entrepreneur who spoke to our assembled students about his own accomplishments in crafting a business plan for his unique idea.
He related how he pitched that idea to venture capitalists.
His idea was tremendously successful and, as I gather, he sold it for millions of dollars.
Now, he stood in front of our students dressed in “cool slob.” He wore a ragged outfit of jeans and flannel shirt and sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup.
He might as well have delivered a “Styrofoam speech.”
He was ill-prepared to speak and offered-up toss-off lines. He had elected to “wing it.”
His sage advice to our budding entrepreneurs for their own presentations?
“Make really good slides.”
That was it.
Make really good slides.
Just a few moments’ thought makes clear how pedestrian this is. What does it truly mean? You need a millionaire entrepreneur to tell you this?
“Really good slides” means nothing and promises even less.
I guarantee that this youngster did not appear in his own presentations wearing his “cool slob” outfit. Likely as not, he offered a great idea sharply defined, practiced many times, and presented knowledgeably by a well-dressed team that won the day.
And this is the lesson that our young presenters should internalize, not toss-offs from a character just dropping by to wing it.
So many of the dull and emotionless automatons we listen to could be powerful communicators if they shed their hard defensive carapaces and accepted that there is much to be learned.
And there is much to be gained by respecting the audience enough to speak to them as fellow hopeful human beings in their own language of desires, ambition, fears, and anticipation.
Conversely, we all can learn from the people we meet and the speakers we listen to, even the bad ones.
Do you Wing It?
In business school, you will espy classmates who demonstrate this pathology of unpreparedness.
It’s called “winging it.”
Many students tend to approach presentations with either fear or faux nonchalance. Or real nonchalance. It’s a form of defensiveness when you wing it.
You offer contrived spontaneity and a world-weary attitude that carries the day.
No preparation, no practice, no self-respect . . . just embarrassment. Almost a defiant contempt for the assignment and the audience.
And this kind of presentation abomination leaves the easy-out that the student “didn’t really try.” It is obvious to everyone watching that you elected to wing it.
Why would you waste our time this way? Why would you waste your time? You have as much chance of achieving success “winging it” as a penguin has of flying.
Winging it leads to a crash landing of obvious failure, and whether you care or not is a measure of character.
The chief lesson to digest here is to always respect your audience and strive to give them your heart. Do these two things, and you will always gain a measure of success.