I recently was the closing speaker at two events where speaker after speaker after speaker–all senior executive-types–read, word-for-word from their scripts, while hiding behind the podium in half-light and letting the bells and whistles of PowerPoint presentations deliver the main thrust of their messages. One “reader” would have been bad enough, but four? five? and in a row??? all morning long??? This was definitely too much. The audience must have been so bored and fatigued three hours in, even if they were interested in the subject matter, and even if they didn’t say so at the time, or feed this back to the client on evaluation forms, afterwards.
I know many would point out to me, “It’s easy for you, Nina! You do this for a living but the rest of us don’t! We get nervous and so we need our scripts and podiums”, And, to that, I say, “Fair enough”. I also say, “Get over it!”
If you should find yourself with these occasional, “other duties as assigned”, it behooves you to–not just for your audiences’ sake, but for your own–do whatever it takes to get comfortable, natural/conversational and dynamic in your presentations. You’ve been asked to speak to the group, so somebody must believe that you are one (if not the only) expert on the subject upon which you’ve been invited to present.
Yes, I appreciate that it helps to use a few visually prompted words to remind you what you’d like to say next, and that there’ll be occasions where the Power Point presentation, itself, must be the “star”, eg. where charts and graphs must be referenced, etc., still, I find that entirely too many subject matter experts lean way too heavily and repeatedly on Power Point Presentations and scripts to get the job done and to get their important messages across. These people use scripts and formality of Power Point presentations so much that they even go so far as to actually read their closing comments, such as, “This Year is going to be the very best for our company. We can do it. Thank-you for attending.” Why do readers have to read these declarations??? Can’t they put their script down at this point…take their glasses off (if need be) and express from the heart, here?
Even if you are a good reader, and know how to put some dynamo and energetic tone into your voice while reading, it’ll still always be reading…no eye contact, stiffer than your natural authentic self and will still always be delivered and experienced by your audience as a dimly lit, floating head and shoulder only experience and message.
You know who you are. Come on now…move away from that podium…and away from that script. Make an honest, enthusiastic and natural effort to win-over those whom you wish and need to connect. You know you can do it. Practice. Take some coaching. Speak at the next family wedding, reunion, anniversary event, big birthday party, etc.
Take a moment, right now, and ask yourself, “How much more authentic and engaged will my next presentation become if I’m on the floor with my audience, and speaking naturally with the group I’m addressing, while letting my visual aids truly be the aids, rather than the whole show? What do I have to do to move towards this result? How did you feel the last time you had to sit through a half day (or longer) event, listening to one reading, floating head after another? Did you really end up paying 100% attention? Did you really hear all the speakers had to share…or did you fidget and start thinking about chores and tasks you had to do later that day…perhaps even wishing you’d opted out of this event altogether and were doing those tasks right now?