Observing a flawless presentation is indeed wonderful, but extremely unusual – an experience that many of us never seem to have. Thats because it almost never happens. It’s more likely that you’ve seen several near flawless presentations, or some really good ones with few noticeable errors – but these are rare phenomena.
Even the best and most experienced presenters seldom if ever achieve perfection, so there is no valid reason why this should be your goal. I have an objective for you that is so much more important – getting your message across so that your audience acts on your message.
The reason I’m rather passionate about this topic is that the pursuit of perfection is the factor that most leads to presentation anxiety. The reality is that perfection in itself is irrelevant. Simply ask yourself the question why you’re delivering this particular presentation? Usually it will be to get a specific message across to a particular audience with the aim of getting them to do something or perhaps think differently. The aim is not to be perfect, because perfection is pointless.
The route to presentation anxiety is the fear of what other people will think of you if you mess up, even in a small way. If you can eliminate this fear, you can get on with the job of structuring and rehearsing your presentation with the view to getting your message across. Your presentation may not be flawless, but it doesn’t matter. If the audience does what you recommended or changes their way of thinking as a result of what you’ve said, you’ve accomplished your goal.
Spending hours getting your slides right is fine, within reason – but it’s not going to help you if you run out of time to rehearse with your slides. Getting your lines word for word perfect won’t help you either if your voice is dull and lifeless. So give each area of your preparation a fair chunk of your time. There’s no need to over prepare or over rehearse – you want to get the balance right with the time available to you. You know your topic, don’t you? You’ve left enough time to rehearse the prepared flow so that you’re familiar with it, haven’t you? Great!
The more you get out there and present flaws and all, the closer you’ll get to perfection. You have to make mistakes to get the experience. So no experience equals no improvement. Teach yourself to enjoy your presentations and to relish the opportunity to speak to audiences. You see, the pursuit of perfection will hinder you and stop you in your tracks. Experience, gleaned through trial and error is your real friend.
Now put a smile on your face, connect with your audience and give it your best imperfect shot. Just don’t think about it too much!
Upcoming “Present With Confidence” 2 day workshops: Johannesburg 1-2 June (see Public tab on this site) and London 16-17 June – go to www.pauldutoit.co.uk