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Making presentations matters

Boring Presentation

Presentations are an essential skill in today’s fast-paced world. Here is how to make it count.

Kathmandu, July 25, 2016: Let us assume that you have seen a lot of presentations, and that you have also delivered many of them. For a few minutes, imagine that you were an observer in these two situations.

Situation 1: You are watching a student give a presentation of an assignment. He stands in front of the classroom, frozen with nervousness. He mumbles and stammers, takes many awkward pauses, and mostly reads from the slides. Occasionally, he looks at you and at the rest of the audience as if to scream that he wants to avoid the ordeal. You find no real value in what the speaker is saying, and you feel you have wasted your time.

Situation 2: You are in a seminar hall. A highly acclaimed professor is giving a presentation on her recent research findings. She talks about the title of her research (which is full of archaic words), objectives, questions, methodology, findings, interpretations, and so on. You wish to be somewhere else because she is taking you back to your dreaded Research Methods class. Her presentation slogs like a monologue on a slow train towards boredom.

You probably have been in both situations. And you must have been eager to leave the room. On occasions, when you couldn’t, you must have felt the dullness of the presentations chocking your enthusiasm. Why are most presentations so lifeless?

Some of the regular responses would be: the presenter is not prepared, the slides are poorly executed and cramped, the content is boring, the presenter isn’t maintaining proper eye contact, the presenter is speaking too fast or too slow, the presenter is exceeding the time limit, and the likes. These are all valid reasons.

But let me argue that most presentations are boring not because of the presenter’s skills, nor his or her knowledge of the content, or the lack of eye contact, or bad body language. Most presentations are lifeless because of the intent.

If you have wanted only to impress your audience, clients, customers, or teachers with your presentation skills, you know deep down inside that you have only half-succeeded. Because your intention primarily was just to make an impression. Not to create an impact, nor to make a difference. You wanted applauds. You wanted grades. You wanted a promotion.

Your intent—the core reason why you are standing there in the first place—will either make or break your presentation.

So before you set out for a presentation, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do you intend just to deliver a stunning presentation or do you also intend to create an impact?
  • Do you just want to showcase a bunch of shiny slides or do you also want to inspire action?
  • Do you just care about your message or do you also care about the audience?

When you ask these questions, you will eventually see a clear picture. You will understand that you must put impact over impression. You will know that your job as a presenter is to be useful, to be relentless, and to be humble. That’s your core responsibilities. And, you will find ways to structure your message, to design your slides, and to deliver your content—so that you just don’t talk, you also change minds, touch hearts, and transform lives.

Let your presentation skills amplify your intent—to disrupt patterns, break conventions, and inspire action.

Now, please put yourself as a presenter in both situations I talked about earlier. You have sharpened your axes. You know your content. And you know your intent. You are determined to be useful, relentless, and humble. You care about your audience—their needs, their happiness, and their expectations.

Then, your presentation will matter. You will matter.

In a world where boring, lifeless presentations are dime-a-dozen, do not be just another brick in the wall, just another speaker to space out to. Presentations are not just great ways to showcase your personality and hard work, they are also portals where you can reach and effect change. So, whether you are doing just a routine classroom presentation or you are prepping for a nervy AGM affair, seize the day, and make your voice count.

By Umes Shrestha

The writer is an Assistant Professor of Communication at King’s College, Babarmahal. He can be reached at umes.shrestha@gmail.com