We all make assumptions. Quite often they're a useful short-hand that makes us efficient. But they can form barriers that can keep us where we are and stop us from growing and reaching our potential. When it comes to presentations I've come across many of these when working with my clients. I want to highlight 5 of the most common.
Here we go then:
Assumption 1. "I'll focus on my slides. What I'm going to say will come to me when I stand up to speak."
This generally leads to two styles of presentation. You may end up writing what you're going to say on the slides and then read from the slides. And because your audience can read, this bores them, and probably you. Or your spontaneous speaking becomes a ramble, the beginning and end of which you've not considered. Treat what you're going to say and the slides as separate but complimentary tools. And spend as much if not more time on what you're going to say and let that guide your slides.
Assumption 2. "What happens before and after the presentation will take care of themselves. It's the presentation that's most important."
The bit before you start and the space after you finish your presentation are real opportunities to engage your audience. Use the 'before' to settle them and yourself in. And the 'after' to ask them what they think and decide on next steps. This creates a strong start and an organised and forward-looking finish.
Assumption 3. "No questions, phew!"
This is not necessarily a good thing. You want to make your audience think, otherwise, why are you there? You want them to be engaged with you and what you're saying. To be stimulated, to think new thoughts and then to question them. You want them to be interested enough in you, your idea and their use for it to query, clarify. Questions say that you agitated your audience. Gave them something new to think about. Isn't that what you want?
Assumption 4. "Great presenters are naturally talented."
Take someone you admire. Get their autobiography and read it. If in the opening pages your admired hero says "I woke up one morning with this natural gift and it just took me to the top with no effort, like a magic carpet," feel free to print this article and burn it. If not, note the effort, grit, passion and determination (amongst other things) that your idol put themselves through to become great. They may have some natural talent but that's not enough. You can go much further than you ever imagined with effort and hard work.
Assumption 5. "Fear is a bad thing"
Actually fear is a useful thing. Back in prehistoric times fear told us to run or fight. The trouble is we haven't lost that impulse. And it can get us into trouble when it comes to presentations. We don't run or fight so the anxiety shows itself in other ways, like stage fright. Here's how to deal with it. Use it. See it as a warning that something important is coming up. And welcome it as a warning from you to you. "You'd better prepare. And practice." That's what fear is saying. And when you hear that voice, it's time to listen. And then take action.
For more information on presenting, check out 10 tips for becoming an effective presenter.
In the meantime, feel free to look me up on Twitter @JohnDScarrott or check out my website where you can find other useful articles on this subject http://johnscarrott.com/blog/
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