What is acting? It’s you, exaggerated.
That’s why Pacino wins Oscars. He’s the same guy over and over again with varying degrees of phlegm caught in his throat. He’s good because you probably describe his acting as “gritty, passionate and authentic.” Although he probably doesn’t yell “YOU THINK YOU’RE BIG TIME? YOU GONNA F______ DIE, BIG TIME!” before he steps on a bug, you could totally see him doing it.
When’s the last time you delivered a presentation or taught a class or even had a job interview where the audience was impressed with your grit, your passion, your authenticity?
If you are like 95% of people who go on job interviews, make presentations or teach a class, likely never. You’ve got the knowledge. You’ve got the data. You’ve got the successes. But the second you go up on stage to present, you’re Kissinger with a head cold.
“Thank you for coming. Today, we shall review the results from Q3 and have a discussion about the gaps and how we shall zap said gaps. Ha ha ha…that one was for the boys in logistics…ha ha…ahem…continuing…”
Not only do you deliver this in a monotone that make flowers yawn, you read the slide word for word, causing quad damage to your listener’s tenuous attention. Man, don’t do this. It really, really sucks.
Acting is not faking it. Acting is embellishing nuances that you typically exhibit when you’re talking to somebody right in front of you. Presenting is everyday you – amplified. In voice and gesture. When you’re on stage, the guy in the last row needs to see, hear and feel these nuances that make you, you. It’s seeing, hearing and feeling these nuances that make the audience feel your authenticity. But for most people, the moment the spot light is on them, they turtle up, hold their hands across their belly and speak quieter, as if the guys in the back row are just there to give the chairs something to do.
And you guys who sit in the back row and complain that the talk was boring, are you sure you’re not going to be the same when you’re up there?
Having an entire room stop and listen to you is an incredible power to possess. You have the obligation to ensure that when you’re done, the people in the room leave fulfilled, having learned something or is inspired to do something. This power is so often abused, by awful teachers, sales managers and marketing people who treat this captive audience as captives – unloading uninspired material, delivered uninspiringly (not a word…)
1. Know your material cold but don’t memorize. Your slides are meant to be glanced at and not read from. Hell, ditch the slides and provide properly designed handouts at the end.
2. Practice with purpose – dial up the intensity each time. If 10 is inappropriately insane, and 1 is most corporate talks, then aim for 7.
3. Always use dramatic pauses. Ask a question. Pause. State a fact. Pause. Set up tension. Pause.
4. Move around. The worst is seeing a presenter completely stationary with his hands folded across his gut. You are literally of no more use than if the entire presentation was an MP3 piped through the AV system. Movement stirs the energy levels in the room. We are genetically programmed to pay attention to movement (the guy who wasn’t was eaten by a lion)
5. Short dramatic sentences a twelve year old can understand. Jargon and techno-babble only where appropriate. Most people haven’t finished their law degree yet…
6. Respect your audience. Be so ridiculously well prepared that it looks easy. Your listener wants you to do well. They want to feel at ease with your message. You’re still going to make mistakes. But where people may forgive incompetence, people will never forgive indifference.
ALWAYS AIM TO BE IN SHAPE. Nothing is more contradictory than seeing an out of shape corporate dude talk about running a tight ship, being lean and mean and being aggressive in the marketplace. This is not an opinion by a smarmy jerk. This is science. We are visual animals. We don’t always believe what we hear but we always believe what we see. Your message will lose all credibility if you’re a slob. If you cannot manage your own physical appearance, why should I believe you can manage my customers, my accounts, or my business?
You can play it safe at any other time. The audience needs to be engaged and have a reason to believe. Or else learning and acceptance won’t happen. If you’re worried about looking stupid, imagine how much more stupid you’d feel when you catch the entire back row fast asleep.
Corporate presentations sound like corporate presentations because everybody thinks that’s how it’s supposed to be done. Forget that.
Be you, amplified.