I read a negative comment today.
The comment was made on a website in response to a presentation that was given at a networking event. It said that the presentation was a “bit dry,” and the author of this comment pointed out that “several left during the presentation.”
I was at this presentation as well. And I noticed that several left, too. Was it dry? Perhaps. But does a dry presentation necessarily diminish its value to the point that people will feel compelled to leave? Not usually. If the information is of value, many people will persevere despite the lack of charming stories and helpful analogies. Remember, we all survived high school math as well.
But dryness wasn’t the reason why those people left early.
The speaker who gave this presentation helps startup companies with their growth. And given the often complicated nature of business development, it was no surprise that he presented a number of different constructs that outlined different aspects of his process. He explained the different phases of starting up a business. He explained the different steps taken within each of those phases. He identified several different series of metrics to determine the relative efficacy of best practices as defined by both quantitative data as well as qualitative analysis of ever-changing entities.
He was given the task of presenting for about 45 minutes, and crammed so much material into his talk that he very well could have spread out any one of those subjects into a 45-minute talk in its own right.
In other words, he wasn’t dry. He was completely overwhelming.
The mistake that many people make when they take on the task of giving a presentation is that they feel they need to cram in as much material as possible so as to build as much value for their audience as possible.
I can understand this. The more information we get, the more empowered we are, right?
In response, I’d like for you to consider what happens when you pour beer into a glass. When you pour it beyond the rim of the glass, it overflows. This makes the beer outside of the glass undrinkable. That may be obvious to say, but the purpose of the visual isn’t to conjure up an image of beer that never gets drunk. It’s to conjure up an image of all of the things that happen when the beer spills over. It has to be mopped up. It has the potential to stain certain surfaces, damage any electronic devices that may be nearby, or even just soil important paper documents. It causes inconveniences and hardships that go beyond losing out on some beer.
When we overwhelm our audience with too much information, we run the risk of not just giving them more than they can keep in their glass, but of tainting their experience in other ways. When I sat there listening to the presentation, I began to feel diminished because I couldn’t keep up with all of the different constructs and items the speaker outlined. I felt inadequate for not knowing all of the buzzwords and terms he threw around. While I was simultaneously wearing my content specialist hat and was therefore analyzing the execution of the content as he spoke (occupational hazard), it was still difficult for me to absorb the information in a meaningful way. I didn’t feel empowered.
The speaker addressed issues like a business retaining customers alongside about a dozen other concepts. But what if he just spoke on retention alone? What if he just provided a simple concept for us to relate to and then expanded on that concept for the time he presented to us? Would we have as much information? Certainly not. But would I have even the slightest idea of one thing that I could somehow apply to my life? Most likely.
The people left early because the beer had spilled all over their brain and they needed to go mop it up. Our ability to reach our audience with our content is defined not by our ability to cram as much information into their brains as possible, but by our ability to present them with just enough information to achieve their next step toward success.
When our audience feels empowered in this way, they will come back for more. And then, we will have the opportunity to teach them something new. Click here to watch a free video on the key ingredient your speech needs to empower your audience.