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Are Scientists to Blame for Poor Presentations?

scientistOk, so you’ve sat through a few too many presentations that have made you yawn a bit too much. And you definitely DON’T want to be that person at the front of the room running the snooze-fest. Especially if you’re trying to convince your audience to do something when you’re done – like buy a product, sign up for your service, or join your list.

In fact, the thought of creating those same, totally uninterested and borderline lethargic feelings in your audience that you’ve felt SO MANY times before is enough to give anyone speech anxiety, even if you’re normally the life of the party.

But, why are there so many terrible presentations if no one sets out to actually present that way? What’s the problem here? I’m here to tell you two things:

1. You aren’t destined to give a terrible talk. You can actually deliver an informative, educational and inspiring talk that is pretty darn fun to listen to.

2. It isn’t your fault that you’ve given less-than-appealing talks in the past. I’m going to go out on a limb here and actually blame scientists for this phenomenon.

Ridiculous you say? I think not. Let me tell you why they’re at fault (are you a scientist? Sorry – didn’t mean to offend, but here me out).

I love science. In fact, I consider myself a scientist (check out the cool scientific paper I wrote about how couples communicate about infidelity http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01494929.2011.626670#.VOJruVPF_qk – yay science). But, for so long, and still to this day, some people and groups of people like to discredit science. They look to all sorts of other things and forces to describe what happens in their world.

So, scientists have hammered us with this idea that things need to be logical in order for us to buy them (or, buy into the idea).

Most of us agree… at least we think we do. I mean, it makes sense right? Why would we agree to anything that isn’t logical?

But, in reality, that isn’t how people actually make decisions. We’re not as logical as we would hope, or as we imagine we are.

We’re actually quite intuitive. And that’s how we make decisions. That’s how we relate to each other. It’s how the world goes ‘round!

Back to speech.

When we BELIEVE on the surface that people make logical decisions and only logical decisions, and we know that it makes sense for people to make logical decisions, we think that if we want to get results, we need to present the audience with every piece of logic we have – every stat, number, fact, dictionary definition and argument that we can find.

But that really isn’t how people make connections, or how we make decisions.

If you’re relying only on stats, fact and otherwise left-brain / think-y kind of stuff, your audience is not only going to tune out, but you’re not going to get the results you want either.

You’re left with a pretty terrible presentation and no buyers at the end of it. Fail.

Do you feel that resistance? Are you shouting at the computer, “but Sandy, I’m a PROFESSIONAL and you don’t understand…. the facts and statistics are important and I don’t want to lose credibility by presenting the feel-y stuff.”

Right. You don’t want to do that either. But, here’s what you DO want to do.

Combine the left-brain stuff with the right-brain emotional, intuitive and HUMAN stuff. The stuff that makes people FEEL something. Or cry. Or cheer. Or laugh. Or go, “WOW, YES that is SO ME! And she gets me!”

Here’s my little formula. In no way is this the only way to do things, but it is a way that I suggest for people who have a tough time combining all of these things, especially if you tend to add more of the logical and less of the human stuff.

1. Develop a story that highlights one case study.

2. Follow with statistics to show how likely this case study is to be true for your audience.

3. Provide a testimonial from another person that is very similar to your audience.

Following this formula will guarantee that you are mixing in all aspects – the stats are important, but you have to hook ‘em first. And then, you have to show them that your argument can apply to other people just like them.

Doing this for all of your points will give you a sturdy foundation for point you try to make while also making your talk relatable and interesting. No snooze-fest here! And nothing to feel anxious about. They’re going to love you.

Like this tip? This is just ONE of the many common mistakes that new speaker’s make that can kill an idea before it even generates any momentum. If you want to see more like this, download my tip-sheet so that you can avoid all of the common mistakes. 

About the Author Sandy Donovan

Sandy empowers the young and talented to increase their power and influence by improving their ability to be heard and be clear. She does this by providing access to rigorously tested research in the communication, psychology, and marketing fields.