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The Best Presentation Tip I Ever Received

Photo: Kane Reinholdtsen

Photo: Kane Reinholdtsen

Presentations and reports come with the territory when you’re a consultant. Or a leader. Or aspiring to move ahead in an organization. 

In my role as a Marketing and Insights Consultant, I present findings from research on a regular basis. And facilitate workshops. And lead discussions.  

But even that frequency never made presenting any easier. 

I used to sweat like a horse standing in front of an audience.

And I couldn’t understand why. 

Until I stumbled upon a presentation coach. I knew I needed help, so I set up an appointment. 

We talked. She asked a lot of questions. She filmed me presenting. She made me watch the video. (That’s a humbling experience.)

And then she made a revealing observation:

You don’t believe yourself!

I argued back. “Sure I do. I know that the material is right. I conducted the research and did the analysis myself.”

“Are you the authority on the material in this deck then?” she asked.

“Yes, I am!” I said.

“But you don’t believe that you are. I think you doubt yourself when you look into the faces of the audience.”

She was right.

In their faces, I saw quizzical looks. I misinterpreted their expressions. 

I thought I was under the magnifying glass. 

I thought they were questioning my message, my insights. I thought they were skeptical. 

And thus I lost confidence and doubted myself. 

And then the sweat poured out.

 

My Coach Corrected My Thinking

My coach explained that their quizzical looks were not signs of doubt, but were, in fact, signs of concentration. 

The audience was not questioning what I was saying, but was processing the new information I was delivering. They did not want me to finish, but they were craving more. 

Then she gave me the best presentation advice I ever received:

Wear the mantle of authority.

She explained that audiences give presenters the benefit of the doubt from the beginning — that in their minds the presenter wears the mantle of authority. They desire to learn all that they can from the presenter.

She coached me:

When you are introduced as the presenter — as the authority on this topic — step into that role. Wear the mantle of authority for that topic. 

Don’t worry that you need to convince the audience that you are right (which is what I was doing). Rather help them learn what you have learned so they can apply it to their situations.

Three days later, I was on a plane to Atlanta to present a report. I reviewed my deck and rehearsed the points I needed to make. 

When I stood in front of the audience and looked into their quizzical faces, I reminded myself: They want to hear what I have to say. They want to learn what I know, so they can do their jobs better.

How did it go?

No sweat! Literally and figuratively.

 

Sometimes You Need a Little Creativity Boost

My free eBook might just help:

5 Exercises that Will Make You 10 Times More Creative

I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)

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Bryan Searing