Presentation Tips – It’s not All about You!

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I recently spent several days college shopping with my daughter and sat through many interminable “info sessions” where reps from admission offices try to make their colleges sound like the most amazing, fantastic, innovative and totally cool places on the planet. After hearing their spiels I’m ready to explore colleges on different planets.

Many presenters rambled, shifted from foot to foot, ambled around their little stages without purpose (I wanted to yell: “Can you just please stand still?”), used tons of, um, filler words, and read their presentations off their screens instead of developing eye contact with the wide-eyed high schools students and their anxiously neurotic parents. I heard the same lame jokes over and over. (“You can study in any other country in the world. Except Antarctica!”) I was thrilled each time my phone buzzed so I had an excuse to walk out to take “important” calls.

There was, however, one info session that held my attention. Whereas other admission officers gave lists of possible majors, study-abroad options and notable alumni, this fellow looked at the crowd and began with statement: “This session is all about you.” He said the whole college search process was a chance for the students to listen, observe, and learn about themselves. Maybe his college wasn’t even right for them.

I wish I had taken credit for coaching him. When I work with corporate speakers, I help them identify what audiences are thinking and what they need to know. We craft messages that resonate with their audiences allowing them to think, and ultimately be persuaded. This admission officer recognized that the best presentations are not about the presenter, but all about the audience: their concerns, their goals, their emotions. Once he had us, he told us what differentiated his school.

I was completely sold. I hope he’s reading this blog and accepts it as part of my daughter’s application packet.

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