Presentations, Just Wing It (or not)

Henry V before St Crispin's Day

Henry V before St Crispin's Day (Agincourt)

What if you were selected for the part of Henry V and had to give theĀ  monolgue before the battle of Agincourt – it’s only 273 words – you could wing it. Right?

Or what if the Parents and Citizens’ Association of your child’s school decided to put on a fund raising concert and asked you to sing “Over the Rainbow”. You could wing it. Right?

And finally, what if your boss said, “We need to do a sales presentation to Acme Widgets.” You could wing it. Right?

Most people would baulk at winging the first two, but probably feel comfortable with the last. Here’s my postulation.

If you performed badly in the first two, it would be very obvious to all in the audience. They could forgive you and empathise with you for nerves, but they would be scathing in their criticism if you got it very wrong and showed a complete lack of preparation, or if you read it out from a prepared sheet. (I have a recurring nightmare where I am called in for a stage play at the last minute and have to read the lines from a book). Most people wouldn’t want to embarrass themselves, so they would put the effort into being as well prepared as possible.

Yet the same doesn’t always hold true in PowerPoint presentations. A lot of people are happy to just get the slide deck out, make a few mods, add a few dot points, happily turn up to an unfamiliar environment and pitch away.

The current Australian election campaign shows that most people have a finely tuned BS meter, a finely tuned avoidance meter and a finely tuned sincerity meter. So if you turn up to a presentation unrehearsed, people will sense it quickly and you ought to be embarrassed if you’re relying on the comfort of your dot point doona to protect you. It won’t work.

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