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Why you suck at Presenting

A couple of things have nudged me to start a new series on presenting.

First, was the last three conferences I attended which were abysmal, and second, Jay Dolan's blog The Anti-Social Media. Fun stuff!

So, here is the first installment, of many, on – Professional Presentation Skills. (Why you suck at presenting, and why you shouldn't!) 

Now, some background … I have been teaching my version of Professional Presentation Skills for over 15 years, I have lectured at three Universities and have been honored to have clients like AMEX Global, Bell, Deloitte, TD Bank, Atomic Energy Canada to name a few on the client side, as well as, Interbrand, TAXI, Bimm Communications and numerous other top-ranked agency-side clients. There are also hundreds of keynotes and conference sessions notched on my belt. And it works. It works because people have told me it works. It has gotten them clients, promoted and new jobs. That's good enough for me.

Also in this day and age when everyone blurts out phrases like Usability and User Experience I believe they should practice what they preach. User Experience during your presentations should not end with folks tossing tomatoes at you, or worse … not getting the client!

This presentations thing has been a passion of mine, effective communications more specifically, and because we are doing more and more presentations this is a big part of communications. A bigger part of our jobs.

The ugly truth is, we all suck. We are horrible.

You have seen these characters … there's the …

  • "Stammering Stella" (Sometimes ending sentences in Valley-girl up speak!), 
  • "I'll talk to the Slides Sam",
  • "Lemme entertain you! Babs"
    and the
  • I will "turn my back to you while I read the slides, Charlie".


You have no doubt seen all of these typical characters and suffered through their hours of "Death by Powerpoint" … and more. I am only scratching the surface here.

The essence of my course is to get you to forget what you have learned and adopt a new tact. My goal is to find the right style and the “confidence” we all have naturally. The right style for you!

All people are interesting. I believe that. They are interesting when they are natural. There is nothing natural about presenting. So to effectively communicate you have to find a way to be yourself in front of an audience.

We are all different and every one of us has unique characteristics we can exploit and we can develop these to become effective presenters.

The main reason people suck so bad at this is that they do not want to admit they suck. Ego is the enemy of the presenter.

Sure, you will own up to Glossophobia beating you to a pulp, but you won't own up to the fact you did not practice, you don't have a script that tells an effective and emotionally impactful story and you have never been trained properly. I say properly because although organizations like Toastmasters and some other trainers are fine for beginners, they are not really working on what the business world demands of us. We need to be effective. We need to be professional. That means the communication, in this case the presentation, has to deliver results. Measurable results. And it has to be "on the button" every time. That is what professionals do. They do not have bad days.

Learning to present properly results in:

  • Feeling more confident and successful
  • Establishing more credibility and achieving respect with internal and external customers

And it will help you understand non-verbal communications, master them and take control of a challenging and stressful situation.

The first installment follows up on Jay Dolan's post.

Did you know, that when you communicate only 7% of what you are communicating involves the actual words you use?

It is true. It has been researched and proven. 93% of the art of effective communications revolves around your appearance, your style, your tone and manner and just about everything else BUT the words, your PPT deck or your content.


And you cannot master any of these if you have not been trained, learned to practice effectively and adopt a goal-oriented strategy for presentations. The stress of presenting will change who you are when you get in front of an audience. You will do things under stress that you would not do normally. This is where you have to practice, adopt a professional rehearsal routine and eliminate most if not all of the mistakes. I prefer to do this on camera where I can review and rework the presentation to its maximum effectiveness.

Perfect practice is what i call it. Also every presentation MUST be peer reviewed.

So, here is the first lesson. Write it down.

If you do not have a script, in story form that you have edited and tightened up and have had someone else listen to (NOT READ) you will wander off topic. You will add unecessary words. You WILL ramble. You will stutter and stumble and appear uncomfortable, awkward and appear unsure of yourself. Because you are adlibbing. Unless you are a trained performer and an expert at improv, do not attempt this.

Think of your presentation like a mini play. It has to have a beginning a middle and an end. It must be written down. Do not leave anything to chance – your career is way too important!

One Comment

  1. Glossophobia
    Glossophobia July 29, 2014

    I really find it interesting seeing statistics about how presenting isn’t what you say it’s how you say it. This is something which I have started to realise as I have started to get over my fear of public speaking. It is all about delivering your message in a confidence manner and getting your point across.

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