Presentations Too Comfortable? — It Is Time To Take Some Risks

Long ago I heard speakers who advocated, “Have one speech and just find different audiences.” Today’s audiences, however, are expecting more from us. Even if you have a tested, surefire winner of a presentation, it is time to ask yourself if you are too comfortable. It is probably time to try something new and force yourself to take some risks.

It is OK to have a distinctive style of your own, but it is also a growing experience to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I always use the same techniques?
  • Do I usually tell the same stories?
  • Do I plan my presentations following a specified structure?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above questions, I suggest that it is time for you to take some risks.

Try some outlandish techniques. We are all told to involve the audience. Many speakers feel that asking for a show of hands is enough involvement. Not so. Think about clever ways to move participants to action and interaction.

  • One speaker I know hands out a mini-quiz on her topic as people enter the room, and then starts her presentation by having people share their answers with each other and the whole group.
  • Another speaker who stresses the importance of “asking” starts by asking everyone to take out a dollar bill and then goes around collecting them. If someone only has a five, ten, or twenty, he says “That’s OK. No problem.” He does return the money after making the point that when “one asks, one receives.”
  • Other presenters have participants sing along or chant a phrase in unison.
  • Being a fitness instructor who also speaks about creativity, I will often start a session with aerobic music and then get everyone up onto his/her feet to stretch –following with the quotation by Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The human mind once stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.”

Develop some new stories. Yes, I know that we all have strong stories that have gotten better and better with the telling and retelling, but it is time to develop some brand new stories too. I don’t suggest changing everything, but if you can add one new story for each presentation, you will keep them fresh and exciting for both you and the audience.

Change your pre-planning of presentation structure.I know I always stress the importance of preparation. I am not changing my mind about preparing. I am suggesting that you prepare in a different way. If you have always used the method of “Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and then tell them what you told them,” think of ways you can turn that formula on its side. Or, if you rely upon outlines including the three most important points, try the free association method of mind mapping or clustering.

So, take some risks. Try something new and fresh. You will find that you, your presentations, and your audiences will become invigorated with enthusiasm. Have fun!

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