How to Present like a Human Being

Many of us feel less than happy when asked to do a presentation. I wonder why?

I think we carry around lots of strange notions of what we are supposed to be like when we stand up to speak in front of a group. For example, isn’t it funny that we wouldn’t stand up in front of 3 people to talk but we wouldn’t sit down in front of more than about 20 to say the same things.

It’s safe to assume that most of our deeply ingrained beliefs come from what we have learnt in our early years. As children we see and absorb many things that we don’t understand… things like adults playing the authority figure and teachers playing ‘the teacher’. Television and the media in general also plant of lots of ideas in our young minds about looking and sounding ‘right’, credible and above all, impressive.

Maybe, by accident, we learn that when we are being normal, using our normal voice and normal ways of standing and just ‘being’ that we are somehow not impressive. Not worth listening to. Not very interesting… Not important enough.

So we do things to makes ourselves better, bigger and generally rather more important than we think people think we are! As an antidote to all those wacky thoughts, here are three things to have a go at which might help you to step into the presenting role without needing to ‘present’.

Use presentation aids like PowerPoint as an afterthought, not as a planning tool. When people use PowerPoint they turn into robots. They do what it says on the slide. They-do-not-deviate and the audience gets bored by yet another PowerPoint pack. End-of-story.

2. Avoid using phrases like:

at the end of the day
core competency
drill down
ducks in a row
going forward
harvesting efficiencies
hit the ground running
level the playing field
on the same page
paradigm shift
push the envelope
seamless integration
seismic shift (outside earthquake references)
strategic alliance
strategic dynamism
think outside the box
under the radar
utilization, utilize

(thanks to Bryan A. Garner of Harvard Business Review for that wonderful list)

OK, I think we get the picture. These words are phony. When we use unnatural language, we behave unnaturally too. Choose your words, by all means, but make them real words. The rule of thumb is: Simple words for complex topics.

3. At the first opportunity, get the people who are supposed to be the audience, involved. Ask a question. Get them talking to you. Break the rules. Create a conversation rather than a solo performance. Because in life, we have conversations, not monologues.