You’re in a bar, having a drink with your friends. Everyone’s enjoying themselves, having a laugh, and you’re now on your second beer.
Across the smokey room you see a guy or gal you’d like to meet.
Normally you’re not so good at these things, but you pluck up the courage and head over.
The closer you get the more your courage evaporates. Finally, after almost having run away, you reach the guy or gal.
You set your drink on the table next to you and put your hands behind your back.
You look into their eyes, and then immediately look away, diverting your gaze to your feet.
You begin to sway nervously from side to side (…and hope the beat of the music masks it).
After 5 seconds of awkward silence you glance up and then back to your feet. Then you begin…
“Hello. I would like to date you.
You look like a nice person and I’m sure we’d be good together. There are 3 things I would like to talk to you about.
First, my hobbies and interests.
Second, my aspirations and where I see myself, I mean us, in the future.
Finally, I’d like to discuss where we could go on our first date.
If you have no questions at this stage, I’d like to begin by talking about my passion for stamp collecting.”
How do you think you’ll do? Probably not well.
In fact, if you get through your entire intro before the object of your affections walks away, you’re doing quite well. Of course, you won’t notice them walking away because you’re staring at your feet.
So this is a big problem. No one is ever going to get a date by approaching and treating another person like this.
Funny thing though, this is how we treat people every day in business. This is how we do presentations.
We stand on stage and deliver presentations with boring lines like those above. All the while looking at our feet with our hands behind our backs.
And we wonder why people hate office presentations.
Next time you do a presentation, consider your audience. Think of a bad first date or a bad first meeting. Think about the things that make a good interaction and the things that make for a terrible interaction. Minimize the terrible and maximize the good.
Here are the 2 reasons your presentation is a like a good date or a bad date.
Let’s face it, if you don’t project confidence chances are your communication will suffer.
Approach someone in a bar or go on a date and spend your time stuttering while avoiding eye contact… You won’t be trusted. Your lack of confidence impacts trust and credibility.
Likewise, in your presentation, nobody wants to watch you mumble at your feet. Project confidence and your battle to win over your audience is simple.
Not feeling confident? Here’s what to do:
Know your subject matter well.
When you know your subject matter well you don’t need to mess around with memorizing lines. All you need to do is remember three key points you want to talk about in your presentation.
You won’t have the anxiety that regularly comes from doing a presentation because you can’t forget something you know deeply.
In the “approach” example above, where you introduced yourself, there was a vital ingredient missing: interaction.
When you don’t interact during communication, you’re not communicating. You’re lecturing.
Communication is naturally two-way. When you lecture to people in a business or social setting they get turned off. They stop listening.
To improve your communication, stop lecturing and start interacting. Don’t talk at your audience, talk with them.
When you deliver a presentation, interaction takes on the form of asking questions which help move you through your presentation content.
Let’s imagine you’re delivering a presentation about a new software system to be rolled out to the office. You can ask questions like, “Who’s tired of the slow customer management system?” or “If you could improve a part of the customer management system, what would it be?”
When you ask questions which are relevant to your audience they pay attention. You make the presentation more relevant to them which gets them more engaged.