Who Sucked the Life out of our Presentations?

Why are so many presentations and speeches so boring?  Why is training so often boring? Come to think of it, why are so many things at work boring?  

I was recently asked to review some training materials that would cost less than the proposed vendor.  As I reviewed the materials, I was struck by the fact that the content was basically the same, there was nothing incorrect about it, but it was dry and boring.  Why was it so dull? How had 2 vendors taken the same basic content; one vendor made the material come alive while the other seemed to suck the life out of it?

Here are some things that you can do to stop the spread of lifeless presentations.

Be authentic.  Yes, authenticity is, ironically, the next big buzzword, so let’s use it while it still means something!  Corporations have forced people to sanitize and fear their true emotions. When you cover your true thoughts with a layer of sanitizer, you end up with a dull, lifeless jumble of words.  Consider this example:

  • What she said:  “Pull through revenue is experiencing a correction due to over-the-top market entrants.”
  • What she means:  “Sales are down. Some new companies came in, and we didn’t see them coming.”

Just say it!

Let people think while you talk.  Sometimes you are giving a presentation to a large group and there’s no room for dialogue, but you can still engage the audience.  The best way to do this is by giving them room to think. Instead of telling them everything, create some tension, pose a question and let them think about what the answer might be before you give it to them.  

The trouble with a lecture is that lectures answer questions that haven’t been asked

— Professor Steven Strogatz

Talk Normal!  Please just talk normal.  You don’t need to speak formally or robot-like.  It’s hard to listen to a robotic monotone. Be conversational.  At one a recent graduation we were joking about a staff member speech that said “I am excited to see you come back and visit in a few years”, delivered in such a monotone that we were not sure they were sincere!

What have you done to make your presentations more engaging?  Let us know!