How to avoid self-centred presenting


It’s not about you

How to avoid being a selfish speaker

Whether you are presenting an informal update to your team, trying to convince the board to buy into your expensive project, or walking out into the spotlights on the stage at a large conference – there is one mistake it is very easy to make as a speaker. Because the spotlight (real or metaphorical) is shining on the presenter, it would be easy to think that the speaker is the important one in the room. It would be easy, but it would also be wrong.

When we stand up and speak, we are speaking for the benefit of the audience.  If your goal is not to add value to your audience then your talk is in danger of missing the mark and falling flat.  The audience will quickly loose interest if you talk about yourself. Yet this is the way many business presentations start:  

Hello I’m Bob from the Very Boring Company – let me tell you about us: we’ve been in business for 23 years and we must be good because all our suits are expensive and our offices are flashy….

No one wants to listen to that.  The audience is not interested in how clever you think you are - they will make up their own mind soon enough!  

Your audience has given you a little of their most precious commodity – their time. The minutes they spend listening to you are gone forever.  Make sure the value you give them is well worth the price they have paid.

To avoid being a self-centred presenter, ask yourself: what problem does the audience need or want to solve? And them show them how to do just that.

To avoid being a self-centred presenter, ask yourself: what problem does the audience need or want to solve? And them show them how to do just that.  This subtly changes the tone of your presentation from ‘I’m so clever at digging holes, you should hire me’ to ‘I can help you with the backlog of hole digging which is causing you a headache allowing you to focus on serving your clients and growing your business’

Turning the spotlight onto the audience also has another benefit – it really can help with any nerves and stage-fright you might be feeling.  

When you focus on the audience rather than yourself, your train of thought has to shift from ‘how do I look’ or ‘what do they think of me’ to: ‘how can I serve them best’.   

At the heart of it (warning: hard truth coming…) stage fright is actually quite a self-centred or selfish thing; because you are making your feelings and what you imagine other people’s thoughts about you to be the most important thing at that moment.  Sorry to shatter your illusions but people generally aren’t thinking about you. They are too busy being the star of their own soap-opera. They are thinking about themselves, their worries, their workload and trying to work out whether you are going to say anything worth listening to.  If your talk is designed to make you feel better about you, then you audience will switch off very quickly.  However, if your presentation results in the audience feeling better about themselves, if you offer them help and hope then you will have done your job well.  Most of your audience will not remember what you said a week from today, but they will remember how you made them feel.

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