Stop aiming for perfection when presenting

Stop aiming for perfection when presenting

When we’re presenting, let’s stop aiming for perfection.

The ever-brilliant Brené Brown teaches us that rather than a positive route to success, perfectionism is a HUGE barrier. ⛔️

More than that, perfectionism is one of our most ‘dangerous defence mechanisms’. ⚠️

It lures us in because it (falsely) gives us the impression that it will protect us from judgement, shame, or belittlement. And my god, if we could guarantee THAT as an outcome when putting ourselves through the nerves of public speaking, why WOULDN’T we jump at it?! ?

…but it’s a lie. And what’s worse – it’s a vicious cycle:

We try something new with the aim of ‘perfect’, and of course, inevitably, we fail (because, p.s. ‘perfection’ doesn’t exist*).

And the problem is that when we experience this failure, we DON’T do what we should and say to ourselves:

“My god, that strategy totally didn’t work, I need to put this aim of ‘being perfect’ down and try something different – a healthy striving perhaps where I’ll accept the odd blip while I develop and explore.”

No no. That sounds far too self-aware, gathered, and healthy. ?

Instead, we tend to think: “Oh GOD. I failed at that because I wasn’t perfect ENOUGH. MORE perfection is required to keep me safe.”

See the problem? ‍?

A woman presenting to a work team

Some examples of brilliant and imperfect speeches:

? Michelle Obama at the 2008 DNC. She stumbles. She gesticulates too much. She is wooden physically and struggling a bit to be present with the crowd.

She is brilliantly powerful, affecting, and impactful. Having previously been vilified in the media, she won over shed loads of voters from this one speech. It was a pivotal moment. (Fascinating, btw to look at this set against her glorious 2016 speech at the same event.)

? Amy Cuddy’s hugely popular 2010 Ted Talk. She is LITERALLY discussing how incredibly powerful body language is in terms of our ability to land a message. Any presentation skills coach would say her body language whilst sharing this is far from optimal. It’s human. A little closed off. A little too gestural. AND her content is fascinating and powerful. It’s been viewed over 22 million times on YouTube.

? Simon Sinek’s Motivation Thrive speech on practicing empathy. Man, this is slick. And so owned and connected. But he stumbles several times, restarts sentences, goes a little too quickly. Imperfect AND awakening, inspiring, deeply moving stuff.

What would it feel like next time you need to present if you remind yourself that it can be brilliant AND flawed?

Is perfectionism an issue for you? SO VERY familiar over here…?

*Except, perhaps, Nutella?

A jar of nutella

In the meantime, here are three top tips that you can use to improve your presentation skills!

  1. Keep it simple – the simpler the better, people are more likely to focus and engage with what you’re saying when it’s easier to follow
  2. Use visual aids – people love to visualise! So, to break up the speaking and text, add a photo or video to reignite the engagement with your audience
  3. Make eye contact with your audience – although this can be a daunting task, maintaining eye contact with your audience will help to maintain their engagement as well as assert yourself when addressing them

Give these a try next time you are presenting and let me know if they are useful to you!

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