Confronting the Absurdity in Your Presentation Groupthink

Tony Compton, Managing Director

When I challenge the status quo of marketing groupthink, I’m challenging you.

In the most professional and positive ways imaginable.

Today, I’m challenging you to stand up to the absurdity found in the #presentation and public speaking groupthink found so readily in every channel of business communication.

At sessions, at conferences, trade shows, and events.

In the boardroom.

During sales calls.

During sales meetings.

On webinars.

On camera.

But rarely on point. Or at least interesting.

Because how many more bad presentations do you and I want to endure?

There are myths behind the absurdity of your presentation groupthink.

And there are truths.

Here’s how I see both of them:

Myth #1: Presentation and Public Speaking rules must be followed.

Truth #1: There are no rules. You can (professionally) do whatever you want. You have an audience. Whether it’s an audience of 1, 10, 100, or 1000 – rock them. Surpass their expectations. Make it a fantastic audience experience. Crush it. And there sure as hell are no rules that state you have to use PowerPoint slides – or any other technology.

Myth #2: Content is the most important part of any presentation.

Truth #2: No it’s not. Content is important, but it’s a distant third behind how a speaker looks and sounds during a presentation.

Myth #3: You don’t need to practice.

Truth #3: Nonsensical arrogance. Michael Jordan was the best in the business, yet he was also known for being the first one at practice and the last one to leave. Not only do you need to practice your presentation skills more than once a decade, so do your employees. Developing public speaking abilities should not be reserved for the C-suite – when and if they do care about this.

Myth #4: Panel discussions are ok.

Truth #4: No, they’re not. Ever. They are lazy, event-fillers. Examine the body language of the panelists from those self-serving panel discussion pictures. From the bored to the uninvolved, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. You have the talent and the creativity. Do something different. Anything less is a clear-cut message of “I don’t give a damn” enough to take the time.

Myth #5: Corporate needs a “compliant” presentation slide deck.

Truth #5: Absurd. Is it more important to provide a security blanket of a slide deck so somebody, somewhere can see a tangible asset, or is it more important to create an experience for your audience – slide deck or no?

I’ve seen this before. You’re doing a corporate event and are given a PPT template so that you can color between the lines for your presentation. Fine. Give them the bare minimum of slides.

If you’re looking to challenge the status quo of your corporate marketing groupthink, cite a good example by looking at the Apple product launches. Minimal to no use of “slides” with good use of video, and a heavy emphasis on the presenters.

I always wonder how Apple can launch their WW products this way yet you have to have an incomprehensible 30-page slide deck to talk about yours.

Myth #6: You have to tell the audience everything you know about our product.

Truth #6: When somebody asks you what time it is, you don’t show them how to build a watch.

Myth #7: Online learning can take the place of practicing presentation and public speaking.

Truth #7: Little bit of leeway here… There are some that will say that online learning suffices. I’ll give them partial credit. It only works after somebody has been doing in-person communication work on their skills and has developed a credible routine. Online can work in remote, consultative settings for preparation, but ideally it’s with in-person, team-based practice.

Myth #8: Turning on your smartphone camera is a great idea.

Truth #8: That may be the last thing you want to do. The saying goes “garbage in – garbage out” applies to video and presentation groupthink. Just because you have the ability to turn on your camera and stream on Periscope or Facebook Live doesn’t mean you know how to build an audience, engage, and hold interest for any length of time. Sometimes a five minute video interview can hurt your brand, reputation, and credibility.

Until you’re absolutely ready with a comprehensive game plan for using video, don’t.

Myth #9: There’s no time for any of this.

Truth #9: Isn’t it funny? You’ll have an audience. Webinar, video, trade show… customers, prospects, media, and analysts. Yet you (allegedly) don’t have time to prepare and deliver an exceptional experience for your audience?

Exactly what business are you in?

Myth #10: There’s no budget for this.

Truth #10: Sure there is. I recently saw a tweeted picture from somebody going home after an BIG trade show. The picture was of two suitcases filled with junk obtained at the show. I estimated the cost of that person’s attendance to be $5000. $5k to attend a show and bring home bags of junk. Somebody approved that expense report. Probably an oblivious #CEO or #CMO.

It wasn’t my budget – or money. But it may have been your #VC money.

There’s budget. Once you start taking this seriously.

Presentation groupthink has produced a global business community of just “good enough” offerings. Good enough sessions because everybody politely claps at the end of a presentation and goes about their day.

Multitasks during webinars that will never truly reveal the audience’s level of disconnect.

Copies one another so that every video interview looks, sounds, and feels the same.

With the same outcomes.

Finally, I recently read a post that highlighted how a handful of Chicago tech companies are developing their sales talent. About how each gets their “pitch” down. But while there’s mention of some very good skills, and a vague reference or two to “training” – there’s not one direct mention of personal communication or #publicspeaking coaching. Nor presentation training. At any of the companies. Some of that may be embedded in there – but the fact that it wasn’t front and center showed one thing: Groupthink. Sales, Marketing, and Presentation Groupthink.

Which is odd. Because while listening is important to any sales situation, so is Talking. Communicating. Presenting. Selling. Across multiple formats.

So the challenge put to you now is to overcome the absurdity in your presentation groupthink.

But you won’t find the answer in the next panel discussion.

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.