Kathy Sierra has a wonderful post over on her site about how focusing too much on presentation skills can negatively affect your presentation. And you know what? She’s right.
Presentation skills are all about YOU. What YOU do. What YOU say. How YOU say it. Stage fright is all about YOU. What they think about YOU. What they tweet about YOU. What they tell everyone in your professional community about YOU.
The Big Problem is… YOU.
Or rather, the problem is thinking that what matters in your presentation is you. Because unless you’re a paid performer – musician, comedian, motivational speaker – you are not the reason they came to the conference. They are sitting in your session because of someone that matters far more to them than you: themselves. They are there for their ownexperiences, and “watching you present” is not one of those experiences.
I’ve written and presented so much about focusing on different details of your presentation, these paragraphs smacked me so hard I almost regenerated. Inadvertently (and occasionally purposefully), I’ve advocated the idea that your presentation is about you.
But it’s not.
It’s about your audience.
…Because I am not important. What is important is the experience they have. My job is to provide a context in which something happens for them.
When I stop worrying so much about me as the center-of-attention and more of myself as the vehicle that takes my audience to learning something new, I no longer feel the pressure of having to be perfect.
Still, Kathy includes a small set of basic skills she refers to as Minimum Useful Presentation Skills. In other words, here are some things you should still think about when preparing for a presentation of any kind:
- You audience should be able to hear you, so be careful of how fast you talk.
- You audience has to be able to see what’s on the screen, so size and contrast are still important.
- You audience has to stay awake, so think about pacing and energy.
I think I’ll have some more to say on this topic in the next couple of days, but, for now, go read Kathy’s post. It’s really good.