• Scott Stiefvater

Break these 3 presentation norms and stand out as a leader.

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

*This post is adapted from a LinkedIn article I published on November 25, 2019.

Following are three norms of the mainstream presentation culture whose end-time has come. Break them in all but the rarest of cases and show the world you have the courage to stand out and lead.

1) Slide-Heaviness

Most presentations include slides from start to finish. It’s a convenient norm if you are anxious about giving a presentation – it keeps listeners’ eyes off of you and on the slides instead.

The truth is that slides often hinder your impact more than they help. You are the most compelling visual. Your facial expressions convey rapport. Your posture conveys self-assured power. Your hand gestures add nuanced description.

The listeners visual experience of YOU is essential to connection.

Two options: 1) ditch the slides altogether or 2) turn off screen-sharing between the necessary visual aids. Need to display some data to make a point? Do it. Then get rid of it so people look at and connect with you.

2) Linearity

Most presenters are intent on crafting a bullet-proof narrative and doing anything it takes to take their listeners through that narrative to the end. They plan a linear flow of ideas and then cling to it.

But your listeners’ minds are not linear. While you can do a phenomenal job of empathizing with your listener in planning your content, you cannot predict with certainty where their minds will be at the beginning of a presentation and where they will go throughout.

Focus on delivering value to your listeners and not getting through your content. Know the problem you are helping to solve and your main message. Plan a likely flow of ideas, but don’t cling to it. Continually “read the room” trying to understand what is going on in the minds of your listeners. Be ready and willing to adjust and improvise as changing sentiments demand.

3) One-Wayness

Having a Q&A session at the end of a presentation is a common practice. But it assumes that the presenter is THE expert and everyone else is in a one-down position. It asks listeners to suspend their reactions throughout a presentation.

But listeners cannot suspend their thinking. And in most cases, you are not the only expert in the room. Your listeners’ minds are constantly making connections, some of them potentially valuable to the discussion.

So, ditch the Q&A. Invite your listeners to speak at times throughout your presentation. Don’t solely ask for questions. Solicit thoughts and reactions as well. And listen. The goal of a presentation isn’t to show you are the smartest person in the room. It’s to facilitate a conversation that delivers value to the group and to the business.


© 2021 by Scott Stiefvater,

(anti) Presentation Coach


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