Presenting is only as complex as you make it


Presenting is only as complex as you make it

Our clients often present a similar opening challenge to us with each enquiry:

“Our work is very technical and complex to explain. It is important to ensure that we are able to simplify our message and communicate it clearly.”

We get it, every business is unique

That said, we do believe thatpresenting is only as complex as you make it.

President Barack Obama is one of my personal favourite speakers.

Every time he speaks he demonstrates that presenting is only as complex as you make it.

In his State of the Union Speech last he addressed the economy, criminal justice, education, energy and climate change.

Together with a whole host of other complex topics, this had to be one of the most difficult speeches anyone could make.

However technical you believe your next presentation may it doesn’t have to be complex.

Here are eight potent lessons we can take from President Obama’s 2016 State of The Union Address:

1. Authenticity

Political views aside, each time President Obama speaks you hear a passionate leader show how much he cares about his country.

He addressed the Nation in a manner that anyone could understand regardless of their interest in politics or depth of knowledge.

Authenticity isn’t something you rehearse, it’s an intention

It’s where you commit to being open, as though you are having a conversation with people you like and trust.

It isn’t something you can teach.

It’s a promise to be who we really are, rather than who we think our audience wants us to be.

2. Humility

It’s quite rare to hear any speaker mention their own failures, let alone a president of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

It takes a high degree of emotional intelligence, courage and humility:

“That’s one of the few regrets of my presidency, that our politics have become even more filled with rancor, that we are further divided than when I came to office.”

One of the greatest gifts you can give your audience, is to show them that you are just like them, fallible.

It’s easy to sense humility in a speaker because they put their focus entirely on their audience, not themselves.

They don’t talk themselves up because they know that no one in the audience is expecting perfection from them. They know that they have the platform to add value and make a difference not to impress.

3. Storytelling

Presenting is never simply about sharing the facts.

After all, you can do that just as easily in a document or an email.

It’s about sharing the story behind the facts and the relevance to your message.

The key distinction between the spoken and written word is the emotional connection

This was a story of optimism told through moments of drama, conflict, hope and vision.

Every great presentation is a story which takes us on a journey of exploration and fulfilment.

Storytelling is one of a speaker’s greatest tools. It stimulates a sense of curiosity, anticipation and change.

4. Rule Breaking

All good presenters are familiar with ‘the rule of three’.

Simply stated, it suggests that people are more likely to remember three things.

President Obama often uses the technique himself but this time his story revolved around four important points.

Whilst three is good, as you will see from the video it’s not really the number that’s important but the objective and intention:

“So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.”

Many people fear speaking in public because it conjures up an image of conformity; sticking to the rules of what a great speaker does.

There are no rules when it comes to presenting and speaking in public

It is about authenticity, passion and the courage to do whatever it takes to connect with your audience.

It’s not about being polished and perfect.

5. Structure

It’s naïve to believe that you can craft and deliver a powerful presentation without a mindfully robust and relevant structure.

Passion alone isn’t enough when it comes to presenting with impact.

The richness of your content and the way it is structured is of critical importance.

In this speech President Obama’s roadmap looks like this:

Change Jobs

The economy

The world Change

The Future

Having a clear and simple structure to your presentation allows

– Your audience to easily follow you to absorb and remember your message.

– You to be better prepared and less stressed.

– You to establish a clear purpose for your talk and your audience to focus on that purpose.


We are surrounded by a history of thousands of years of wisdom, accomplishment and brilliance.

When we are trying to connect with and influence others, its arrogant to think we have all of the answers.

As a speaker you can enhance your own credibility considerably by quoting the experience and achievements of others.

President Obama does this several times in a very thought provoking way:

“We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the ‘dogmas of the quiet past.’ Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.”

A relevant quote which adds credibility to your point can be extremely powerful

It can reinforce your point and demonstrate your level of knowledge and preparation.

It can also serve to make your presentation more memorable.

7. Pace

A great number of presentations feel rushed.

It”s almost as though the speaker has something to say and can’t wait to get it over with.

In my view, President Obama is the master of pace and pause

His mindful delivery of his message is seamless.

It doesn’t feel as though he is presenting or lecturing, just simply having a conversation.

His entire speech is delivered at a pace which says he cares about what he is saying

He is thinking about his every word, not reading a script.

Pace is one of the most important elements of an effective presentation. If you speak to fast you may lose your audience.

Speak to slow may send them to sleep.

The key to success is variety.

8. Examples

Most presentations are based on sharing facts, data and information designed to influence and inspire change.

Data on it’s own is never enough.

A great way to bring your presentation to life and clarify your message is by giving your audience real examples.

Something that they can understand and relate to

This is another of Obama’s rhetorical skills as you can see in his State of the Union speech:

“‘We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That’s just part of a manufacturing surge that’s created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.”

Every business is unique with its own story to tell.

Regardless of our product or service I’m sure we can agree that leading a nation must rank amongst the most technical and complex.

Whether you are speaking about quantum physics, anatomy or thermodynamics, your presentation really is only as complex as you make it.

Watch the video here:

If your team need help with their presentation skills

– Book them onto a powerful public speaking course.

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

– Get your team some excellent presentation training

Image: Courtesy of

Share this article

Leave a comment

Download our Free Guide

Sign up for our newsletter and download your free guide to authentic public speaking.

When you sign up, you’ll get a link to our free guide, plus helpful public speaking articles posted on our site. You can unsubscribe at any time.