Updated: Nov 25, 2020
The words we use shape the way we think. In fact, some words and phrases act like traps, limiting our imaginations and the possibility for better outcomes. Many common presentation-related phrases limit us. Change the words you use for the three concepts below and begin opening yourself up to becoming a more engaging and masterful
Change "my presentation/slides" to "my visual aids"
Slides have become far too prominent in our understanding of what a presentation is. Instead of being an experience between people, a presentation has come to be a set of slides; we build "our presentation" in slide software and then play it back to our listeners while providing a "talk track." Slides can be a helpful supplement to a conversation when thought of and treated as visual aids. Visuals aids help our listeners to understand and remember our message. But when too prominent, they do the opposite.
Change "giving a presentation" to "leading a conversation"
We have come to think of a presentation or speech as a fixed, script-like thing that the speaker gives to the audience. The individuals in the audience are passive receivers of the one-way flow. How each thinks, feels and responds in the moment is largely irrelevant because the presentation is locked. In an engaging conversation, though, listeners feel as though they are a vital part of the experience. They are important and involved even if they don't speak back to the speaker. They feel seen.
Change "the audience" to "my listeners"
We have a habit of thinking of the individuals in our audience as the cells of one organism.
In the preparation phase of the presentation process, it's a matter of practicality; we don't have the bandwidth to consider each individual we expect to present to. We have to lump them together and find some common traits. The problem is that we bring that same mentality to the delivery phase – in our mind, we are speaking to one thing. We may sense it's vague, general reactions as we speak, but we miss the rich, subtle, diverse responses of the human beings in front of us.