The challenges facing today’s presenters are numerous.
From new technology, grappling with different interfaces and options for engaging audiences, through to managing those audiences themselves, what with there being an increase in the multi-generational aspects of audiences. Add to that ancillary topics such as the fact that we all now have shorter attention spans, meaning we have less time to get our information across as well as managing the influence of concepts like TED and how that impacts the standards and expectations of audiences. Then of course let’s not forget the importance of how stories can be utilised and the well-publicised benefits of story within presentations. A simple concept, but one which when managed badly, can have a direct impact meaning that a strong engagement can quickly become a trite engagement.
So, things have never been trickier for today’s presenter in terms of soft skills – their requirements are numerous and need to be challenged almost weekly. Yet despite this, we still see training budgets being spent on old-fashioned, “What the book says”, type engagements such as how to manage nerves, where to stand, what to do with your hands and how to manage that oh so complex tool, the clicker. Now, we’re not saying that these are not relevant, but the modern presenter has bigger issues, bigger fish to fry and frankly, most of the obvious challenges just mentioned, are easily found on a large number of well-meaning YouTube clips.
I recall recently working with an insurance company delivering our Think, Act and Deliver Differently presentation training. This audience was a senior team of presenters from an array of different departments, each of whom had had thousands upon thousands invested in them by their well-meaning L and D departments to help them become better presenters. What shocked me was how petrified they still were of presenting and the reason is, had nothing to do with their lack of ability, they all had the potential to be wonderful presenters, but they’d got themselves so tied up in concern and frustration with what good looked like, they forgot actually the purpose of the presentation, which was to engage an audience to prompt an action. Simple stuff, but it had been forgotten in the mire as short-sighted, by-the-book training was loaded onto short-term, by-the-book training.
So, this blog is a simple request. If you’re a sales leader in charge of learning and development or an internal comms professional, please think differently about presentation training and coaching. Not just for your presenters, who frankly will benefit hugely from somebody taking a more pragmatic approach to the current and very important issues facing the modern presenter, but perhaps more importantly, their audiences will appreciate it and audiences are the most important stakeholder in any presentation. Keeping them onside, keeping them open to new concepts and ideas and messages is what this whole presentation lark is about. It has very little to do with what you do with the clicker and almost nothing to do with what you do with your hands.