Presentation Skills: Know Your Limitations

One of these days I will learn to do some proper research on my blogs in order to provide the links to materials that I only assume exists. I can say there are thousands of articles out there on presentation skills, and not quote a single one.

Not going to this time either, but when I type in ‘presentation skills tips’ into Google, I got 17.5M hits, so it’s out there.

This is not about HOW to present though, that’s been covered by people far better at it than me, this is about WHEN to present, or more specifically, when NOT to.

A phrase occurred to me today that I feel sure I’ve stolen (and more than likely corrupted) from someone else, but I can find it’s like;

A good idea presented badly, is often less effective than a bad idea presented well.” 

To illustrate, I will go to the extremes.  Fascism is a VERY bad idea, but I know of two people in history that turned their entire countries to it.  Ending World hunger is a VERY good idea, but the altruistic pleas of those who dedicate their lives to it, fall on mostly indifferent ears.

How is this possible?  Well, the two Fascists I’m thinking of were incredibly charismatic (according to the history books), and understood human nature innately (exploitive).  The people who want to end world hunger are usually too busy working toward that goal to do the rounds, and the chances are, they are not much into oratory (givers).

Humans are basically good, and it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we have our own lives to get through, and we are generally far more receptive to the concept of mutual benefit than we are towards ‘one sided’ charity.

So what does this have to do with presentations?  Let me ask you; Are you good at presenting, and do you enjoy it?

I can guarantee that more people THINK they are good at it than actually are, and that the ones that don’t enjoy it, never are.

So whom do you want presenting your business plan to angel investors?  Or whom do you want presenting your company’s proposal for a multi-million $/£/€ deal?  Right, someone who’s really good at it, but for some reason this is not always a prerequisite.

Presentation skills are up there with any skill you want for your business, from sales, to finance, to consultancy, to R&D, and should be every bit as important a entry on your CV/resume as your education and work experience.  Smart hirers even have their candidates perform a presentation during the interview process.  Candidates have 1 hour to create a 5 slide presentation, and 15 minutes to delivery it + Q&A.

I’m not saying don’t hire people who CAN’T present well, they may simply not have the experience, but you have to KNOW this both for your business’s sake, and the candidates.  If their job requires significant face-time with the client, the importance of presentation skills is almost paramount.

Every organisation needs a couple of people who are their ‘big guns’ in terms of presenting, and they should be brought out when the stakes are high.  Choosing your presenters by availability is asking for trouble.

If you are poor at presenting, this is the one time I will say work on your weakness, it will pay dividends.

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