stop presenting … start conversing

During a recent assignment, coaching presentation skills with a senior leadership team, the CEO drew me aside prior to the start of the session and made a comment which I have to confess created a sense of déjà vu   “I’ve been delivering presentations for over 30 years … so I don’t want you to try and change me” … he said.

In his opening presentation, he stood absolutely rigid, with a serious look on his face and presented with a monotone voice.  Actually, he looked like he had a broomstick shoved down his back and a bolt through his neck. The overall impression was a living example of a personality bypass operation!

I got chatting to him during a refreshment break, and learnt he had played a spectacular game of golf over the weekend.  He even set down his coffee cup to describe how his drive down the 5th fairway, had carried all the way on to the green, despite a strong cross-wind.  Animated, alive, with hands gesturing wildly, it was clearly evident that golf was his passion.

So I asked him if he would tell the same story to the group, when we reconvened.

back to the broomstick …

Ten minutes later he was on his feet in front of the group “presenting” his golf story …  complete with broomstick, bolt, monotone voice and the same profound look on his face.  Where’d the other guy go? … the nice guy who told interesting stories!

I couldn’t help thinking … ‘who’s changing who, here?’

Perhaps this was because about 20 years ago a strange thing happened in the world … we all stopped going to meetings and instead went to presentations.  Actually they amounted to the same thing … all that changed was the wording in our diaries. Sadly, this spawned a new breed of presenter, with over-developed presentation voices … strange postures and (aaaaghhh!) even presentation scripts.

Am I exaggerating? … Ok a little.  But in all the presentation coaching work I do … around 30-40% of my clients suffer in some way from this affliction.

They seem to lock in to an outdated ‘presentation mode’… and the result is a message that sounds contrived, almost unnatural.  The danger is that the audience may question their level of sincerity … at worst, simply switch off.

any presentation should be as natural as a conversation …

Simply a little louder … more animated … and hopefully a heck of a lot more fun (even for the presenter!).

If you have a sneaking suspicion that you might suffer from this affliction, next time you are rehearsing a presentation, take a deep breath, let go of the tension in your body and tell yourself to stop presenting!

Instead, visualise the audience as a group of colleagues that you need to brief on the content of your presentation.  Talk to them … tell them your story … smile … have fun.  Talk to them as if you were telling a story at a social gathering.

There is nothing in the rule book (even under the heading ‘formal presentations’) that says you have to be stiff and conservative.

In the audience’s eyes they want you to be you … the real you  … a great conversationalist!

© Paul Tomes 2011

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