Two types of presenter – The autopilot majority v the mindful minority

blackboard with 80 20 written in chalk

Everyone is a presenter; the question is, what type of presenter are you?

Every day, in organisations across the world, millions of people are presenting. They are called on to inform, update, inspire and lead colleagues and customers to think or act differently. Many don’t have the time, inclination or knowledge to present as effectively as they would like to.

Some believe they are gifted presenters.

A very large number of people would rather do anything other than present.

A few are leading the way in connecting with their audiences emotionally as well as intellectually.

At Mindful Presenter we believe there are two types of presenter:

The Autopilot Presenter is interested in

– Survival or self-pride

– Acceptance or admiration

– Ease or escape

The Mindful Presenter is interested in

– Compassion and connection

– Clarity and change

– Intention and impact

Let’s take a look at the autopilot presenter first, but before we do, please know that if you’re one of them you’re not alone.  I’d go as far as to say it’s quite normal, so you’re in good company.

These are highly intelligent, creative, talented and responsible professionals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. When it comes to presenting and public speaking, many aren’t quite as mindful as they could be.

They often use words like:

– ‘I don’t have time’

– ‘It’s impossible’

– ‘You don’t understand’

– ‘I can’t’

The autopilot presenter is

–           Focused on survival or self-pride

In other words, they habitually operate in one of two very different modes of living:


They really don’t like the idea of presenting because it makes them extremely nervous.

When that happens, their prime focus is on survival; just getting through the ordeal.

‘The National Institute of Mental Health’ suggests that ‘public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population.’

When you’re in survival mode, you’ll do whatever it takes to just get through the experience unscathed. To do that, you aren’t presenting consciously or mindfully, you are just going through the motions.  The good news is that there is a great deal you can do to manage your nerves to switch from survival to success.


They care about their status, reputation and position and want to do well (don’t we all!)

The presenter with self-pride wants to make a good impression; they want to look good and impress others because their sense of personal worth depends on it.

That’s all well and good of course as it describes most of us; it only becomes an issue where we put ourselves before our audience.

Here are 9 Ways to RESPECT your Audience which will help you to detach from yourself to focus on them.

The autopilot presenter needs

–           Acceptance or admiration

In other words, their sense of self and self-worth puts themselves at the heart of their own presentation.


According to Psychology Today, ‘The need for acceptance is a basic human instinct’.

I don’t believe that’s a principle that most of us would argue with because the very thought of not being accepted is a painful one.

The trouble is, when that’s your key driver as a presenter it’s a limiting one.

The quest for acceptance inevitably means you have to put your personal needs before those of your audience. When that’s your default mindset, its likely that you will do what everyone else does in the belief that is the norm.

Switch your attention to how you can help them and the difference you can make to their personal or professional lives. One way to approach the challenge is; Don’t just present, make a few waves too.


Whilst on the surface, some people may repel the idea of a presenter wanting to be admired, it’s closer to the truth than many would admit.

The need to feel admired extends itself beyond acceptance. We are looking for approval, respect and appreciation. Psychotherapist F. Diane Barth suggests ‘It’s the childlike demand that everyone pay attention to us, the requirement that other people see how important or special or better than everyone else we are.’

It may be a normal human trait but it’s not always a helpful one when we are trying to connect with our audience.

The ‘autopilot presenter’ seeks

–           Ease or escape


Presenting is hard. It take’s time, creativity, focus, a great deal of preparation and practice.

We live in a world where everyone is so busy. In an article in the Independent, Grant Bailey writes: ‘Millions of Brits are ‘overwhelmed’ by mounting work pressures, busy social calendars and financial worries, a study has found.

Research revealed two thirds feel a constant sense of dread caused by the stress of their day-to-day lives.’

In their natural quest to do whatever it takes to relieve the pressure, the ‘auto pilot’ presenter knows that the easy way out is to:

– Write their presentation on PowerPoint and read it to their audience.

– Tell their audience want they want them to know rather than find out what they need to know.

– Rush through their presentation as quickly as they can.


If the ‘autopilot presenter’ isn’t looking for admiration, it’s likely they may prefer to stay ‘under the radar’. In other words, they would rather keep a very low profile by preparing minimally and then sharing information in a monotone, compliant and robotic way. Their objective is to escape scrutiny, controversy or questions, to enable them to get back to work.

There is nothing wrong with being an ‘autopilot presenter’ but there is another way; it’s called mindful presenting.

The mindful presenter is

–           Focused on compassion and connection

In other words, they recognise that whilst they are the presenter, what matters most is their audience.


I’m not referring  to having a sense of pity for the suffering or misfortune of others. Compassion in the context of mindful presenting is having at the forefront of our mind, kindness, empathy and caring. When the mindful presenter looks at their audience, they don’t just see colleagues or clients. They also see someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father.

They want their audience to know that they care about them.

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., a psychologist at Stanford University suggests that ‘In 20 seconds, someone can judge how trustworthy and caring you are.’

In a previous article I wrote called, ‘7 Habits of a Mindful Presenter’ I wrote about another critical side of compassion; self-compassion.


In our presentation skills training workshops and public speaking courses I express a belief that anyone can present. What I mean by that is that anyone can present with varying levels of confidence and clarity. The mindful presenter doesn’t focus on presenting. they set out to connect with their audience emotionally as well as intellectually.

Dr. Nick Morgan, one of my personal favourite communication theorists and coaches shares, ‘How to Connect with an Audience Fast’, in this short article.

The mindful presenter leads

–           Clarity and change


The starting point for clarity in public speaking and presenting is purpose.

That means being absolutely clear at the outset:

– What your message is

– What you want your audience to  do with that message

The mindful presenter is likely to have read Stephen R. Covey’s book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’; they ‘Begin with an end in mind.’

Once they are clear on why they are speaking and what they want to achieve they:

– Speak slowly

– Stick to the point

– Keep it simple


The mindful presenter understands that we live in a world of change.

In a previous article I wrote called ‘The World is Changing – What About Public Speaking?’ I said, ‘The world has changed and continues to changes at an extremely rapid rate and we owe it to our audience to change the way we present our ideas to them.’

Many business meetings and presentations today are very similar.

Each week or month, the same people sit in the same seats and say the same things in the same way that their colleagues do. The mindful presenter finds the courage to present authentically. They challenge the status quo and speak in a way that leads change.

They model the way and inspire a shared vision.

The mindful presenter is

–           Clear on their intention and impact


Your audience are far less likely to act on the insights and information you share with them unless they feel some emotional connection to it. The mindful presenters set out with a very clear intention of how they want their audience to feel.

An article the Harvard Business Review called ‘The Power of Intent’ states that ‘Any CEO or leader who wants to propel a business forward must be certain — and communicate — that the intent is unambiguous.’

At Mindful Presenter we not only share that belief but would go as far as to say that intention is the most critical aspect of high impact public speaking and presenting. If as a presenter, you are not absolutely clear on how you feel about your message and how you want your audience to feel nothing changes.

In this case, intention is a feeling.


If you ‘Google’ the question ‘How to be a high impact presenter?’ you will be greeted with a return of over 72 million search results.

That suggests to me that there is a global demand for high impact presenting but that many people don’t know what it means or looks like.

The mindful presenter in stark contrast to the ‘autopilot presenter’ is acutely aware of the need to make an impact. The type of impact I’m referring to is having a significant effect or influence on your audience. That isn’t a goal you achieve by dumping data on them and hoping they get it.

There are so many ways to make a powerful impact as a presenter. Here are a few of my favourites:

– Making effective eye contact

– Using your voice by adjusting your tone, volume, pitch and pace,

– Using hand gestures

– Smiling

– Moving meaningfully to own the platform

– Telling stories

– Being animated

– Being facially expressive

– Speaking with passion and conviction

At the heart of high impact public speaking and presenting is sharing content which is rich, relevant and rewarding. In other words, it has the impact of making our audience’s lives, better, easier, happier or positively different in some way.

You can read more here.

Everyone is a presenter; the question is are you in the ‘autopilot’ majority or the mindful minority?

If you need help becoming a mindful presenter:

– 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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