No need to revisit that 1996 Powerpoint for Dummies guide. And forget that helpful advice your boss once gave you about “telling them what you’re going to tell them and then telling them again”. Nope. If you really want to suck at presenting, you’ve come to the right place. Just keep reading for some simple yet powerful guidelines for truly being the worst.
Number one way to suck at presenting is by actively trying to emulate others’ presenting styles. “That dude looked cool when he put his hand in his pocket. Must work for me.” “She was quippy and a little smartass and people laughed – I’ll try that.” Bad idea. Nothing reeks worse in presenting than the stench of inauthenticity. More offensive than stinky cheese, it outs you as someone who isn’t working from a core of truth, thus what you’re saying is naturally subject to scrutiny. Yes, you’re a flawed human. Yes, you will stumble, and fumble, and even fall. But if you keep it real, almost anything will be forgiven. All you have to do is own your shit.
“Do you realize that you umm and then say “and”, always shake your left foot, have a tendency to look right past people and that you come across as disconnected?” This kind of presentation feedback usually comes as a major shock to people. “I DO?” they say. With this new insight, they want a do-over and proceed to do NOTHING different. Same feedback. “I AM?” they say again. Yup. Lather, rinse, repeat. It amazes me how so many people believe that just by hearing that they have these ticks is enough to cure them. It’s called SELF-awareness for a reason. You have to engage your inner witness, tap into your body, watch your own hands, hear your own voice and watch how you’re impacting your audience. Only then can you begin to change.
Very, very few of us are gifted with such charisma that simply by turning up and opening our mouths, we truly ‘wow’ the audience. Most of us have to work freakin’ hard at it; crafting our approach, trying to bring mind-blowing visual elements into it, creating experiences that will linger in the minds of our audience long after we’re gone. It’s the HOW that makes all the difference. Argue all you want, but just throwing a personal anecdote into a presentation does not make you a riveting ‘storyteller’. The entire presentation needs to be a compelling story – with a strong set up and ‘holy crap’ pay-off, a beginning middle and an end, and peaks and valleys. And the delivery of said story should make us feel and think big time. Believing your deck alone is your savior is your guarantee for suckage.
Finally, a few more handy tips for extra-added suckage. Always tell your audience exactly what they’re about to hear in your presentation. Everyone loves that. A one-hour presentation is always preferably to a 15 minute one. Handing off to another presenter by saying “And now I’m going to hand it off to so-and-so who will cover such-and-such” is always helpful for those who’ve lost the plot. And never, ever forget that audiences LOVE it when you poll them for totally meaningless insights. Seriously. LOVE.