by Steve Adubato, PhD

Jim is a long-time manager who recently attended a conference in which a corporate executive was given the opportunity to talk about his company's newest product to a diverse group of professionals. The executive's presentation was very detailed and very long. It was filled with lots of facts and figures and it proceeded in a logical and orderly fashion. But it was REALLY boring.

At the end of the presentation, the unenthusiastic audience applauded politely. There were no questions. The speaker then handed out a brochure about his company's new product saying the he wanted to provide "additional information." When Jim looked at the brochure, it seemed awfully familiar to him. He quickly realized that virtually every point raised in the brochure was discussed at length in the presentation he had just heard.

Jim asked himself, "Why did I have to spend a half an hour listening to this guy tell me everything that was in a brochure he could have sent to me?" When Jim told me about this experience, he wondered out loud if the speaker ever thought about how his presentation would be different from the written material he handed out after the presentation?

Countless speakers at meetings, conferences or seminars simply reiterate the information that is provided through another medium-usually the written word. Brochures, manuals, PowerPoint--you name it. If all the speaker is going to do is repeat what is on a slide or in a brochure, why do we have to be here? Couldn't he have sent me the information and allowed me to read it at my leisure?

Here's the issue. Anytime you have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, a speaker must ask himself, "what do I bring to this presentation?" Too often, a speaker goes on "automatic pilot" and spouts out exactly what is in his or her script. When this occurs, many things happen and few of them are good:

The audience is turned off. They know you are following a script and feel you have no connection to them. They are bored, can't you see it?

  • You are bored, too. You are reading the same material in every presentation. No deviation. Nothing to mix it up. How could you expect your audience to get excited when you have no passion or enthusiasm?
  • You've just wasted a lot of time and missed an important opportunity to connect with people beyond simply disseminating information.

The next time you are asked to give a presentation, consider a few questions:

  • What can I personally add to the prepared material I am giving to my audience?
  • What personal or profound experience can I share that drives my message home?
  • Is there a recent event common to the group that will help them feel more engaged and involved in the presentation?
  • Is there an example or anecdote that brings my PowerPoint slide or brochure to life?
  • Finally, why am I here giving this presentation and what right do I have to ask these people to sit through it?

As Roger Ailes, CEO of the FOX News Channel and former media consultant to President George H. Bush once said regarding presentations, "You are the Message." If they don't believe in you, what makes you think they are going to believe in what you say? Those who ask and answer the questions listed above reap big dividends. Those who don't are just going through the motions and paying a hefty price. What's scary is they don't even know it.