On Being a Gutsy Presenter

The World is in need of gutsy presenters. By gutsy I don't mean confident; I mean having the courage to go against the norm. When it comes to presentations, many traditional expectations are lousy. Having screen sharing on and a slide up all the time is lousy. Walking your listeners through all your bulleted information is lousy. Exhaustive rehearsal and trying to be a good recording of yourself is lousy. Why don't more of us admit to this and change our approach?

It takes courage.

When facing decisions regarding how to approach presentations, we human beings have to contend with status quo bias. In short, we prefer doing things the same old way as long as the same old way seems to be "good enough". Presentations are generally high stakes, so we'd rather play it safe and do okay than try something new and better but risk blowing it. It takes emotional work to overcome status quo bias and to set the bar higher. It takes courage.

It takes humility.

Courage can become foolish if you simply break with norms and expect success. To be humble as a speaker is to admit how hard it is to transfer an idea into someone else's mind and to change their beliefs and behaviors. It's to admit that even if you're really good, in many cases, you still might not be able to do it. Being gutsy is not about being brash or reckless. It's about moving forward thoughtfully and with conviction.

It takes imagination.

Before you can go against traditional expectations, you have to have a vision for what to do instead. You have to have a vision for what a presentation can be. There are few examples. TED.com provides models, but you have to do a lot of mental labor to figure out how to apply it to your presentations. Imagination, not the day-dreamy kind but the vision-for-the-future kind, takes a lot of effort.

It's a choice.

I don't see courage, humility and imagination as innate qualities that some have and others don't. We all have them. We only need to express them through the choices we make. When it comes to presentations, it is time to choose a higher bar. It's time to do the mental and emotional work of being gutsy.