Leader or Follower ?

Followers are just amusing when they’re trying to lead by imitating others.

Are you a leader or a follower ? There’s nothing wrong with either of them, as long as you pick one and stick with it. This is true for business, technology, culture and most of all public speaking.

You probably have role-models. Maybe it’s Page and Brin, because they started an empire. Maybe it’s Zuckerberg, because he succeeded so early in life. Or maybe it’s Jobs, for his well-known presentations of the iWhatever. Whatever your role-model, I say you should stop imitating them. Stop trying to be like them.

That’s right – especially regarding speeches. By replicating, by following, by mixing advice from twenty people, you’re just going to lose your edge, your personality, the thing that makes you memorable.

Lots of people copy/paste the style of others in the way they prepare and deliver a presentation. They do this because of fear – the fear that their way is going to suck. By doing this, they limit their potential and their ability to take the audience by surprise.

“Maybe it’s better I use more screenshots”

“Maybe I should leave this out, it’s not that important”

“Maybe I should put in another picture/chart”

Maybe all of the above, maybe some or maybe none.

The way in which you deliver a presentation isn’t about doing the right thing. It’s not about meeting expectations. Actually, meeting expectations is the absolute worst thing you can do ! Because meeting expectations equals being predictable and unremarkable; it means people will forget you and your speech the minute you put down the microphone.

When preparing your slides or when rehearsing your speech in front of your roommate/mirror, never get stuck on the right way to do it. Public speaking isn’t like high school or like a 9-5 job – because there are no teachers and there are no bosses. The only thing your audience expects of you is to find a new way to do it.

Bullet-points, pie-charts, a slide named “Values and Mission” ? B-O-R-I-N-G. I guess what today has become a pattern was at some point brand-new and ingenious. Then again, I wouldn’t know – I wasn’t born back then.

Some people try to find self-confidence by sharing their presentation with others before giving the actual speech. Yes, feedback is always welcome – as long as you don’t put it ahead of your vision, your passion, your first-hand knowledge. Don’t chicken out if someone tells you there are too many images or too few. Consider their PoV, but  not to the extent that you do what others tell you to and doubt yourself.

Let me put it another way: You should …

Lead your audience into your message instead of following others into theirs .

I agree, doing stuff your own way is a great risk. You might get it wrong, really wrong. However, as far as speeches are concerned, doing stuff by mixing others’ suggestions presents the guarantee of being worse than wrong: average.

Be honest with your audience in the message you’re delivering. Don’t make stuff up, don’t use bullshit words that mean nothing but seem interesting, don’t hide the essence of your message behind complicated charts. For this, your audience will reward you with appreciating you and your presentation as you are, as they are.

And if my experience in doing so isn’t enough, maybe you should hear it from the man himself:

[ Listen to Sinatra before your next public speaking opportunity. Does wonders for me ]

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Bogdan Written by:

2 Comments

  1. May 19, 2010

    So true. And another important thing when hosting a presentation, one that I learned in the past couple of years: Always, and I mean always, try to be unique, and speak out loud and confident. And if you can sneak a joke or two in there, then do it.

    Great article Bogdan.

  2. May 19, 2010

    Thank you for the comment.
    On the long term, speaking in public actually means finding _your_ way to do it.

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