There are NO rules to presenting…

Blog, Presentation Skills

rulebook-01Whatever you have heard to the contrary, and regardless of how thick that book about presentation skills might be, the truth of the matter is that there are NO rules.

NO covenant has ever been written which reads:
“thou shalt not stand with thine hands in thine pockets” or “thou shalt stand stock still and grip that microphone like there is a ramrod stuck up your bottom…”

I have given countless Presentation Skills workshops and have coached many people to present across the years. I have repeatedly witnessed the deep insecurity which people always encounter when it comes to standing up in front of a live audience (as opposed to a dead one).

  • Whereas she was bubbly and outgoing when chatting by the coffee machine just now, she’s turned herself into a sweating, giggling neurotic rag now that she’s “on”.
  • Where he was quiet and interesting before the day started, all of a sudden he thinks that he has to be superman because now he is wapping his arms around like an idiot.

Huh? What’s going on?

What’s going on is this: when giving a presentation, we are suddenly confronted with the need to “be ourselves”.
And most of us don’t know who that is. For good reason: we are inside looking out and not outside looking in. We’d look odd any other way.

So we get insecure. Questions well up from our deepest psyche and spring themselves onto our panic-stricken consciousness:
– How do I come across to other people?
– Will they like me?
– Does my bum look big in these pants?

In short, we become self-obsessed and make the whole thing about us.
And that’s why rules were created: to give us a sense of security. Do X,Y and Z and everything will be OK.
But, instead of creating peace of mind, the opposite has happened: more rules, more to remember, more self obsession, more freaking out.

Here’s a FACT, dear presenter: your presentation is not actually about you.

It’s really about your story. It’s about sending your message to flutter elegantly from your head and into the minds of your audience via your lips and gesticulation.
You are the vehicle. The destination is out there.
So, really, the focus of your presentation is on them: your audience.

Fearful presenters forget this bit and so experience great relief from turning things around.
Look at your audience.
– How do they come across to ME? Are they receiving, snoring, looking befuddled?
– Do I like them? The answer to this one is always “YES!”. Otherwise stay seated!
– And, just look how many big bums there are in the world. Yay – mine has lots of new friends!

Then, with your attention out there, all you have to do is be you.
And the rules for being yourself should be determined on an individual basis. Perhaps it would really help things along in your presentation if you did walk around a bit. Maybe, just maybe, leaning up against a wall with your arms crossed in front of your chest could be rather appealing…
It’s all rather obvious when you think about it.

So, unless you are intent on giving a mediocre presentation or it is your goal to lull your audience into excruciating, toe-curling boredom, there really are only TWO rules to follow:

  1. Don’t do anything annoying or irritating
  2.  Don’t be cliche

Which, to me, is kind of like saying the same thing twice.
I’d like to see you enjoy yourself.
Your audience would like to see you enjoy yourself.
We all get a buzz out of watching other people enjoy themselves.
Let’s all enjoy ourselves more.

Can I help?

Let’s start by throwing the book away.