I work with executives and professionals across the country on communication and presentation skills. Most of them have a preconceived notion that puts them off course before they even get to the front of the room: They think they have to strive for perfection. Good luck with that. It’s worthwhile to try to improve. We all want to get better, but striving for perfection is a wast of time for a couple of reasons:
- It’s not a realistic goal.
- It’s not what your audience wants anyway.
Audiences don’t want a perfect presentation. they want a presenter they can relate with, a presenter who connects with them, a presenters they feel understands them.
If someone did deliver a perfect presentation it would likely just freak out the audience. Who can relate to someone who never makes a mistake, who never stumbles over a word? Not me. Not anyone I know either.
Audiences want three things, and you won’t find perfection in the list:
Audiences want to learn something from you that they don’t already know: how to prepare a presentation, cook a classic French meal like coq au vin, optimize their websites for search engines, understand the previous quarters financial reports, learn your business plan, etc.
That’s your content. It’s the what of your presentation. Good, even great, content is crucial but it’s not enough to guarantee a great presentation. You need more. You need energy.
There is no bigger mistake a presenter can make than not bringing enough energy to the front of the room. A lot of people confuse the rush of adrenaline they get before a presentation with her. Sure, fear might produce that originally, but you always have the option to put it to use as something else, as fuel.
As a presenter if you bring authentic energy—not the phony kind that some politicians or second rate salespeople use, but real, from-the-heart energy—your audience will respond by giving the energy back to you. But you have to give it first. If you give your audience genuine energy, your audience will respond in kind. The audience takes its cue from you.
Energy is the how of your presentation, how you convey your content. Do it well and it opens the door to the third thing your audience really wants: engagement.
Your audience wants to feel like a part of your presentation. Audience members want to feel like you get them, you understand them, you speak to them their needs, their situation, their wants.
You can do this in many ways: the content itself, the Q&A session, exercises, including audience members in demonstrations, telling stories they relate to, giving examples, using statistics. These all create engagement, and engagement is what turns your presentation into a conversation. It makes it personal and powerful.
Engagement is the why of your presentation. It’s why your audience cares.
Insight is the what. Energy is the how. Engagement is the why. If you can put significant what, how, and why into your presentation I promise you that your audience will find your presentation insightful, impactful, and memorable.
That’s far more powerful than chasing perfect.