10 Presentation Myths and Realities

1. Myth: You won’t have stage fright if you imagine that your audience is naked.

Reality: If you think your audience is naked, you won’t be able to look at them at all. (Or you won’t be able to stop laughing.)

2. Myth: There’s nothing you can do to hide your nervousness when you get up to speak.

Reality: Unless you hold a lit match and gasp between each word, the audience will never know how nervous you are. (Also unless you tell them, “Oooh, weee, I am so nervous!”)

3. Myth: There is a hidden trap door behind the lectern and if you mess up, it will open and swallow you up.

Reality: You only WISH a trap door would open and swallow you up if you mess up. (Like this guy: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.’” (George W. Bush)

4. Myth: The audience is your enemy and you must fight them to survive.

Reality: Even the Sharks (on “Shark Tank”) want you to persuade them to give you lots of money.

5. Myth: They know that you are an expert on the topic, so your audience wants to know EVERYTHING you know as well.

Reality: Your audience wants to know only what they NEED to know, not what you want to tell them. Resist the urge to tell them everything.

6. Myth: Your audience doesn’t care what you look like—they only care about what you have to say.

Reality: Try wearing cut-offs, flip-flops, and a t-shirt that says “That’s a horrible idea! What time?” while presenting to a room full of people in suits. See how much careful attention you get.

7. Myth: If you are a good presenter, your audience won’t care if you go way over your time limit.

Reality: When your time is up, so is your credibility (especially if there’s another speaker after you).

8. Myth: It’s a good idea to end your presentation with a Q&A.

Reality: What if you don’t know the answer to the last question you get? Much better to end with a summary and a concluding statement.

9. Myth: There are some topics that are just too boring for even a good presenter to succeed.

Reality: There are no boring topics, only boring presenters. A good presenter can make “Quarterly Updates to the Annual Plan” interesting. A bad presenter can make “The Sex Life of the Wild Thermin” boring.

10. Myth: Your audience is more interested in your slides than they are in you.

Reality: If all they wanted to see were the slides, you wouldn’t have to make the presentation at all—you would just send them the slides. Don’t be a tour guide for your slides; justify your presence!

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