How your presentation content can help or hinder your confidence


man looking at squiggles on chalk board

Some speakers focus a great deal more on their delivery than they do their presentation content. That’s understandable of course because we all know that if our delivery is poor it’s likely that our message will be ignored or disregarded. That said, we also know that even the most confident and charismatic speaker will lose their audience if their presentation content isn’t rich, relevant and compelling.

The delivery is crucial but so too is our presentation content

It would be very unwise to separate one from the other. Thinking that it doesn’t matter how impactful our presentation content is, as long as we deliver it well is a mistake. Our audience want both and we owe it to them to craft and deliver a presentation mindfully.

The strangest thing

For more than a decade, many of our clients have come to our training workshops and coaching sessions looking for help largely with their presentation delivery. They want to:

– Feel more confident presenting to a group

– Remove bad habits when speaking

– Capture and keep their audience’s attention

– Open with impact

– Close powerfully

– Manage body language challenges

– Overcome verbal challenges

– Handle difficult questions

We help people with all of these challenges and many more

To do that, much to their surprise, we often have to look very closely at how their presentation content is working for them.

The strangest thing is that many people believe we just have to focus on helping them with the way they deliver their message. The truth is, when we help people to reposition and adapt their content mindfully, everything changes. They learn to speak more confidently, freely and easily.

It can be quite transformational.

Let me explain

We have evolved in a business world where most of us have been taught to believe that to look and sound professional when presenting, we have to:

– Share everything we know on the topic

– Simply inform our audience

– Lose our personality and sound like everyone else

– Don the corporate tone and persona

– Be very serious in the way we sound and look

– Use templates that everyone else is using

It get’s worse

– Read or let our audience read slides

– Present documents on visuals

– List bullet points

– Present for intellectual understanding at the expense of an emotional connection

– Show people how clever we are, how much we know and how hard we work

– Fill slides with numbers and charts

– Not show any vulnerability

– Know the answer to every question

That’s the problem

Most of these elements revolve around our delivery rather than our presentation content.

Imagine the impact we would have on our audience if we crafted presentation content which allowed us to speak openly, freely and authentically.

Envisage how much more enjoyable presentations would be if we focused on connecting with our audience rather than impressing them.

Picture the impact we would have on our audience if we made them feel something rather than just inform them.

Wonder what it would be like to just be yourself and speak in the same way you do to your friends and family.

Visualise yourself having a conversation with a room full of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers rather than colleagues, clients or stakeholders.

Ponder the idea of presenting to make your audience’s lives better, easier, happier or positively different rather than simply informing them.

Our audience want to hear someone present to them who knows what they are talking about, cares about what they are sharing and can help them care too.

Help or hinderance

When we encourage and inspire people to stop presenting and to start connecting with their audience, everything changes.

Our confidence soars when we speak authentically.

It’s hard to be authentic when:

– Our content doesn’t allow us to speak openly and freely

– We try to look and sound like everyone else just to fit in

– The culture of the business doesn’t support it

– There are too many rules

– We are made to present someone else’s content

– The presentation isn’t really necessary and could be sent in an email

– We have to present documents on a screen

– Our content stifles our personality

It’s worth remembering that:

Vulnerability isn’t weakness

Confidence isn’t arrogance

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself

Emotion isn’t unprofessional

Professional isn’t deadly serious

Authenticity isn’t corporate

Expression isn’t theatre

Empathy isn’t fluffy

Humour isn’t irresponsible

Bullet points aren’t impressive

Reading slides or being read to isn’t pleasant

Busy slides aren’t helpful

Keep it real 

If you want to speak with greater confidence, presence and impact, embrace and practice the following principles:

– Your slides are not your presentation

In other words, don’t speak to the slides and the data. If you arrive to present and the technology isn’t working, you should still be able to speak. Practice presenting without slides first.

When you have internalized your message, if you decide that visuals would help your audience then craft them separately. Your presentation content should keep this important principle in mind.

– Craft a conversation not a presentation

In our experience, most people don’t get to excited about the prospect of presenting and many audiences have better things to do than attend them. Most people are happy to be part of an interesting conversation. Your presentation content has to be crafted as a conversation, not a ‘data dump’.

– Know yourself well

In a previous article, ‘3 presentation tips you don’t often hear from the experts’, I wrote:

‘One of the most common presentation tips you will hear is to, ‘just be yourself’. Being yourself is all well and good but for some people it may not be enough. If your normal self isn’t conducive to engaging, inspiring and connecting with an audience, then why would they want to listen to you?

 Often, adopting an ‘I’m just going to be myself’ attitude stifles growth, creativity and can end up being an excuse for complacency.

To truly be yourself, you have to know yourself’. It’s with that level of awareness that you get to be ‘your best self’; not just yourself.’

Once you have that level of awareness, craft presentation content which is congruent with that awareness and allows you to speak openly and freely.

– Remember who you are speaking to

Your audience are not just clients, colleagues, the management team of stakeholders. Each of them is also someone’s son, daughter, perhaps brother or sister or maybe even a mother of father. They are the same as you and have feelings too.

Craft presentation content that speaks to hearts as well as minds.

– Don’t try to be perfect

No one wants to hear a slick, memorized, polished speaker trying hard to impress them. They want to hear a speaker who has something important and helpful to say in a way they can share openly, honestly and freely.

Craft presentation content that allows you to speak the way you normally speak.

– Only give them the gold

A lot of presenters believe that a good presentation has to be data heavy; that’s not true.

Don’t hide behind the data holding the belief that’s what your audience want and will make you look good. In a previous article, ‘16 presentation tips to help you to stand out from the crowd’ I wrote:

‘Make sure that everything you say is of value to your audience.  A presentation fraught with data that serves no tangible value is pointless, regardless as to how well it is delivered. Give your audience only what really matters, is relevant, significant and helpful. If it does not support your message and enrich their experience leave it out.

At Mindful Presenter we coach professionals to focus on the ‘gold’. Imagine you are panning for gold. You can be absolutely certain that most of what you will find is dirt, dust and gravel. If you filter long and hard enough you just may find a piece of gold.

Craft presentation content that will help you to deliver the ‘gold’ easily to your audience.

– Ask a 12 year old

One of the many things I love about our business is that every industry we work with seems to have its own lexicon. Unless your audience are extremely familiar with your industries language, lose the jargon.

If you’re in any doubt just ask a 12 year old. If they get it, then so will your audience.

Craft presentation content which everyone can understand.

If you want to deliver a presentation which is rich, relevant and rewarding, make sure that you craft presentation content which allows you to do so in a way that works for both you and your audience.

If you’d like to learn how to craft presentation content to speak confidently:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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