Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 2, 2011 9:23 PM

One More Important Thing About Presenting...

Being memorable is one thing. Being authentic is another.

The other day, someone directed me to a public speaking coach who is said to be an "expert amongst experts." I watched their YouTube video demo reel with interest, but it left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. Was the content strong? Yes. Were they discussing important aspects of what makes a presentation connect with an audience? Yes. Were they a powerful presenter? Meh.

Remember, you're presenting, not performing, but the best presentations are also authentic performances.

If you need to concentrate on one thing to take your presentations to the next level (once you have hammered home the basics), let it be this: don't overtly perform. Be natural. Be authentic. The best presentations shouldn't feel like something you would see in a b movie. A public presentation should never be a platform that becomes an over-acted monologue. It's not authentic and it leaves the audience feeling uncomfortable.

Over-acted monologues happen when you memorize your content and over-practice it.

I can see the eyes rolling right now: "Mitch thinks that if you memorize your speech and practice it too much, it's the wrong way to get it right!" No, that's not what I'm saying. You have to know, live and breathe your content. You have to be able to deliver that content in a powerful and memorable way, but you have to know when you have crossed the line. You have to know when you're no longer presenting with passion, but regurgitating memorized lines and trying to perform each line out instead of delivering the content with what I'll call a "quiet confidence."

Quiet confidence will take you far.

You may be thinking that true motivational speakers like Anthony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeffrey Gitomer, Les Brown and other are anything but quiet, but you would be wrong. They are practiced, well-rehearsed, know their content inside and out and deliver it in a very authentic way that is reflective of their individual personalities. I've had the pleasure of both sharing the stage and watching these speakers command the platform like no others. They are not different people when you meet them on the street. In fact, I would argue that they're not really performing in as much as they are amping up who they are by about 20% to create more energy and passion from the stage.

Every line is delivered with mastery.

The reason the public speaking coach mentioned at the beginning of this Blog post failed to "wow" his audience is because they have probably spent too much time in front of a full-length mirror. They're busy practicing each syllable and hand gesture to the point where the intent and the spirit of the content is all but lost in what has morphed from a public presentation into an over-acted monologue. Dave Matthews Band had a big hit called, 'The Space Between'. That's the space you have to focus on. Extremes rarely work in a public address because people are looking for content from someone they can relate to... and that finding the right performance in that kind of moment of delivery is all about the space between knowing your content cold and over-acting it. When you're practicing, practice working on that space between what's real and what's fake.

What's your take?

By Mitch Joel