We had a presentation skills session last weekend on the Executive MBA course. We were divided into small groups according to how confident we felt at presenting and how we rated our presentation skills. My group were very confident and we ranked ourselves high. And I wondered what we could possibly learn. The answer was a lot!
We walked in the door at 8:30am on a Saturday morning after a Friday that started with exams at 8am followed by back-to-back lectures until 8pm or so and then socialising. So we were tired. Our facilitator took advantage of our tiredness and that our usual defenses were down and immediately asked us to present on an ad hoc topic. We dutifully each presented and gave feedback on each other’s presentation skills as did the facilitator. That set the scene for a safe, constructive learning environment where we were all open to giving and receiving feedback. Fantastic!
But the real ‘aha’ moment came when at the end of the session we each had the opportunity to give a prepared presentation - preferably a work presentation that we’d given in the past six months. One of our group is a charismatic chap who’s first presentation drew us in with his contagious enthusiasm, beaming smile, and amazing voice. But in his second, prepared presentation - our captivating colleague got lost behind his very snazzy, whizzy slide deck. While the technology was impressive, he himself is way more interesting, engaging, and authentic than any whizzy slide deck could ever be! The ‘aha’ lesson was that his first presentation on a basic topic prepared in seconds was far better than the one he had agonised for hours over, because we got to see him. The authentic, true self that is far more interesting than any set of slides.
What we all want these days is genuine connection with another human being. We want to hear about their passion for their subject, the story behind their mission, the blue skies of their vision.
So for your next presentation. We urge you to consider ditching the slides and telling your story in whatever way is authentic and true to you. That presentation will be the presentation that your audience will remember for a long time.
We’ve put together a selection of talks that show how there’s no one right way to give an amazing, inspirational, unforgettable presentation. Notice how each person is authentic to themselves and how this is what makes these presentations work.
Arundhati Roy - Come September - Arundhati stands at a lectern and reads her speech which is one of the apparent ‘no no’s’ in presenting - but she is completely captivating.
Jill Bolte Taylor - My stroke of insight - Jill draws on her personal experiences to tell a compelling and very personal story with clever use of props and slides.
Elizabeth Gilbert - Your elusive creative genius - Elizabeth speaks for 18 minutes with no props, no slides, no notes, and wearing plain black clothes - and what a talk! Along with Jill’s talk above this is one of most popular TED talks of all time.
We Are All Wonder Women Co-founder Eugenie is currently studying for an Executive MBA at the University of Cambridge. This is one is a series of blogs she is writing giving insight into some of her learning from the course which she hopes will help other Wonder Women at work.
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.