“I want my presentation to be perfect.” This is something we hear from our course participants now and then, and I reckon more people think it than actually say it. Most of the time, when people talk about a “perfect” presentation, they seem to mean that their presentation goes exactly the way they envision it in their heads before they do it. Usually, this includes being letter-perfect, absolutely fluid and fluent, starting as planned and getting all the way to the end without interruption, and fielding a few softball questions during Q & A while everyone looks on admiringly.
Effective Works Better Than Perfect
This is not a bad vision to have, it’s just kind of boring, and it can sell you short as a presenter. Instead of thinking about “perfect” presentations, consider what goes into a successful, effective presentation. To me, that would look more like this:
- You have a solid grasp of your subject matter.
- You know your audience’s pain points and key concerns, and you have crafted your presentation to address them with appropriate audience-facing organization and language.
- You have an introduction that will make clear your plans for the presentation and what the audience will get from it.
- You know how to engage the audience using eye contact and remembering to pause for their sake and your own.
- You are flexible and engaged enough that if a question or comment changes your direction, you can flow with it and return to your planned content when you’re done.
- You will field questions with respect for everyone, including yourself—allowing yourself time to think before you speak.
- You look forward to the hard, “curve-ball” questions because you welcome the challenge and the chance to prove yourself.
- People walk out knowing what they need to do next and feeling empowered to get started.
Set a Bigger Goal Than Perfect
A successful presentation is one in which the needed information is imparted, and the important conversation takes place to the satisfaction of all involved. This is, if you think about it, a much bigger goal than the “perfect” presentation I described in the first paragraph. There is a sweet spot between preparation and the ability to roll with whatever comes during your Orderly Conversation. Managing that leads to successful—not overprepared, inflexible, boringly perfect—presentations.