Tony Compton, Managing Director
Next time you’ve logged onto LinkedIn (or any social business site) – scroll down. Scroll, scroll, scroll until you reach the first picture you see from a recent industry event. Don’t worry, it’s in there. A picture that shows the audience at the latest “can’t miss, we’re so happy to be here!” event in front of a formulaic stage set-up that’s been employed in hotel and #convention ballrooms worldwide since the 1970s.
It’s the picture you’ll see where the audience is:
On their laptops.
And their phones.
Doing something else – other than paying attention to their surroundings, and the presenter(s).
You read about it and hear about it everyday. People are most afraid of public speaking. But fear no more, the business world has now evolved to such a state that the fear of public speaking has become outdated. Irrelevant. Why? Here are 10 reasons:
1. Few Are Paying Attention
Just look at that posted, boastful picture of the last great industry event. I’ve seen that picture and I’ve attended that event. There used to be a time when event presenters actually had to connect with audiences and deliver value for the time and monetary investment. Not anymore. With the onset of multiple mobile devices, most in the audience find it perfectly acceptable to show up, but tune into something else during presentations. Yes, it’s rude, inconsiderate, and a complete waste of time. But who cares? It happens everyday, at every event, and nothing is done about it. Don’t worry about your next presentation, most aren’t watching or listening. And when it’s done, rest assured you’ll receive a pleasant, gratifying round of applause.
2. You’re Given Little to No Help
Your company would never spend a dime on helping you improve your presentation skills, so you have the perfect excuse for another poor, nerve-wracking performance. Despite your best efforts and pleas for help, your corporate leaders don’t feel as if your professional development is worth the time or the money. They’ll sweat you about that $50 you spent because you took a more convenient nonstop flight to get home to your family, and they’ll throw away thousands on marketing programs that don’t payoff, but any request for presentation help is ignored. Again, don’t be afraid. They certainly can’t blame you for another poor performance if they won’t help.
3. Mediocrity Rules
It’s not just mediocrity, it’s simply getting through a presentation and hoping nobody says anything or does anything about it. Example: the build-up to your next webinar is tremendous. Hundreds register – and actually turn up. Your webinar technology rocks. Your mind-numbing slides are in place. And while you go on and on and on for 58 minutes of your allotted hour, the audience multi-tasks. (Kinda like point #1.) When you finish, that’s it. The reviews are in. The performance was ok. The report is filed away, any sponsorship checks have been cashed, and it’s on to the next thing. Audiences have been so used to accepting watered down performances that it’s become routine. Don’t worry if your next presentation is nothing special. You’ll fit right in.
4. Everybody Rocks!
Not only do some of your colleagues and company big shots think they’re great presenters, but they’ll be the first to tell you that whatever they do easily transfers to other forms of media: video, ebooks, podcasting, interviews, etc. This means anything goes – consistent, developed talent or not. So even if you can’t stand in front of an audience, it doesn’t matter. Neither can they. Oh sure, they may be magnanimous and say they can use some help here and there, but they’ll never give it any more than a passing thought. And if they don’t need public speaking coaching and practice, neither do you. Just follow their example of self-absorbed communication performance and you’ll be on your way.
5. Panel Discussion? Just show up for those…
I never heard anybody say, “Gee, I wish this convention had more panel discussions. I just love sitting in cavernous ballrooms watching six people on stage drone on about software…” Rest easy, if you’re on a panel discussion all you have to do is show up. You should only get one or two questions. You’ll have a few minutes to provide some nonsensical answer about a mundane topic. Kinda like those political tv talk shows with eight guests – and a host. Each person only gets a few minutes to say what they have to say. Relax, you’ll be in and out of that panel discussion before you know it.
6. Who Cares? It’s a One-Time Assignment
You’re a digital marketer. A damn good one. Your company doesn’t care whether or not you can stand up and tell a story. Or influence an audience. Or motivate your customers. Your job is heads down on your laptop all day. But some genius thought it’d be a good idea for everybody to present at the next departmental meeting, so you have to do it. But it’ll all be over in an instant. You don’t have to make a good impression on sales, or the C-suite, or partners, or your marketing colleagues. Get through it and go back to your desk. It’s not worth worrying about. Or caring about. Or applying any energy, thought, or passion. Dumb assignment, anyway.
7. Your Slides (or Demo, or Video) Will Do the Talking
Yes, yes, yes — your presentation is coming up but you’re clever enough to not have to practice, prepare, or even give a damn. That’s because you have an ace up your sleeve. The “this presentation has already been given, and I have the slides” trick. Good for you. That’s a great way to beat the system. And you’re correct in assuming that nobody will notice that you’re reading somebody else’s presentation. Ot that’s it’s outdated. But it’s a tremendous way to not worry about being a good presenter – and it’s an even better way to cheat the audience.
8. You’re Only Presenting for 5, 10, or 15 Minutes
You have that all-important 30 minute presentation that your company sponsored, but you’re only speaking for 15 minutes. That analyst (customer, vendor, academic, etc. ) is speaking for the other half. All you have to do is cobble together five or six slides and talk about a company history, roadmap, or filler content, then turn it over to the next speaker. A few planted questions and answers at the end of it all and you’re home free. Nothing to fear, except that somebody paid $15,000 to sponsor that presentation. Whatever.
9. Forget About the Audience
Who cares about them? Why bother? They’re not spending their money going to Las Vegas to attend that show, it’s their company’s money. So why bother putting in the extra effort in your presentation? Boring panel discussions are perfectly acceptable to most. So are text-filled slides presented by sleep-inducing speakers. Chances are you won’t draw much of a crowd anyway, so it’s not worth putting in the extra effort. Just sit there, shut up, and speak when spoken to. Don’t rock the boat and be a hero by putting on a performance that stands out in the crowd of sessions. In fact, you’ve spoken a dozen times to other groups about the same subject. You’ve put in your time, the audience doesn’t care, so don’t worry about having to give that 13th performance. You’ve done it plenty, and I’m sure your sick of it by now.
10. You’re Just Not a Public Speaker
Nobody is going to blame you for not being able to deliver a good presentation. It’s not who you are and you never have to worry about how you look and sound in front of an audience. You’ll never be called into action, so it should be the furthest thing from your mind. Look at where you work! Nobody at your company takes presentation skills seriously, especially at the executive level. If they don’t care about things like that, somebody like you shouldn’t care – let alone worry. You’re simply not a public speaker, and you never will be.
Absurd? You bet. But the vast majority deliver presentation performances and event experiences that demonstrate otherwise. And I refuse to accept mediocrity, not to mention subpar personal communication performances.
What’s really riding on your next public speaking performance?
- Your business communication ability to connect with distracted audiences.
- Your ability to perform, with little to no corporate help.
- Your company’s investment in the event sponsorship, but not your professional development.
- Your professional reputation.
If you don’t think your business #communication, #presentation ability, or impromptu public speaking skill set will ever come into play, that’s misguided. But for those who recognize and put into practice skills and techniques to handle any public speaking and presentation opportunity, you’ll have an arrow in your quiver that’ll rock your competition. They’ll not only fear competing with you, and they’ll still fear having to give that competing presentation.
And that’s your winning combination.