I’ve done a few different interviews in the last few months as we lead up to the launch of Presentation Genius and one of the questions that keeps coming up is “What’s the biggest single problem you find with people making presentations?” or “Why is my presentation broken?” and the person asking the questions typically expects me to say something like:
- reading the slides
- using too small a font
- not looking at the audience
…or something else technical like that. And in a way, they’re right, because those are very (very!) common problems. But for my money they’re not the biggest problem. The biggest problem isn’t a technical one, it’s a state of mind.
And it’s this.
Most people approach a presentation as something to be endured, to be survived, to cope with. What that means is that the presentation is created with a negative mindset. The minimum amount of work happens. Little or no rehearsal gets done. People plan to minimise the damage and to stop things going wrong.
But as anyone who’s ever run serious, big or important projects will tell you, thinking small is dangerous. It means, for example, that your presentation can’t ever hit biiiig. It can’t be hugely successful… because the very things that help stop a presentation being a disaster also mean it can’t be a huge, towering success.
Take passion for an example. If you’re trying to make a big difference with your presentation, you need to show a little passion (or a lot!). But if your mindset is to avoid looking like an idiot, to avoid disaster, you’re not going to show lots and lots of passion. In fact you’re more likely to speak quietly, shyly and without enthusiasm. That way, if people reject your ideas you can tell yourself that they’re not rejecting you… but if you’ve really, really “gone for it” any rejection feels personal.
So how can you create some presentation genius?
Instead of thinking “what’s the worst that can happen?” and psychologically planning your presentation to avoid disaster, as yourself “What’s the best that can happen? What would tremendous success look like?”. That way, you’re more likely to plan for ways of getting the best out of your presentation instead of simply avoiding the worst.
I know, I know, it’s blindingly obvious – but how many of us have really done it?! Try it – really allow yourself to think big and create your presentation as an opportunity, not a threat. It’s scary as hell for most of us. But to cite that well known old saw: the world is not served by you thinking small.
Of course, once you’ve done that, you can always come back to it and think about how to put safety nets in place. My bet is that you’ll often (or maybe even usually!) find safety nets you can set up which don’t interfere with your ‘success model approach’. Personally I find it much more difficult to add ‘power ups’ to a presentation that’s designed small and safe!