I attended a presentation yesterday given by a woman I've been wanting to hear speak for a while. I'm fascinated by her topic; she is the author of two books on the subject and is frequently quoted as an expert.
And on the surface, her presentation was polished, contained some good information and followed many presentation best practices. Yet something was missing.
When I analyzed that missing element on the drive back to my office, I concluded that the presentation was robotic, devoid of any real connection with the audience:
- Although the presenter clearly knew her material very well, her phrasing and corporate-speak jargon were pat and almost hackneyed, giving the sense that she had said the exact same words hundreds of times before and we were just one more audience on a long list of audiences.
- Although her delivery was polished, it felt like someone had turned on a switch and the words just came pouring out. She oozed credibility, but authenticity...not so much.
- Although she took questions from the audience through the presentation, there was little engagement or interaction with the questioners. The presenter didn't acknowledge what a questioner said (e.g., "that's a good question" or "that's something I see a lot") but just launched into a response which in several cases only tangentially addressed the question. And when an audience member told a personal story to reinforce one of the points the presenter had made, the presenter listened with little facial expression, made no acknowledging comment and quickly returned to her own remarks.
- Although the presenter told many stories, they were stale, lacking dimension. And each one cast her in an exceptionally positive light, with the cumulative effect sounding a lot like bragging.
Now you may say that I'm being overly critical here and it's possible many people in the audience thought she was terrific. But it's the little nuances that make the difference between a good presentation and a great one.
When you deliver the same presentation frequently, you have to work especially hard not to sound "canned." You've got your material so internalized that you almost don't need the audience -- you know when to pause, when to give an example, when to wait for laughter or applause. You've done it so many times before. But this is where you risk losing the real, authentic you and having a robot take your place.
When you think you know your material inside and out is exactly the time to put some extra effort into rehearsing. Audiotape yourself to evaluate whether you still sound passionate and connected to your subject. During your next presentation, ask a trusted colleague to assess how connected you are with the audience. And plan to engage the audience by asking them to share some of their experiences as they relate to your topic.
Banish the presentation robot! Become conscious of and actively work on these little nuances to enhance your overall impact and give a more powerful voice to your message.
flickr/Andy Field (Hubmedia) C.C. 2.0