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The No. 1 Reason Why Your Presentation Sucks

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For some people, public speaking is more terrifying than death. If that’s you, the reason for this is the same as why your presentations are probably terrible.

It’s not that you don’t know your subject matter. You likely know it better than the back of your hand.

It’s not that you aren’t prepared, either. Most likely you’ve not only studied-up, but probably spent a little too much time hitting the books before your big Ted Talk or senior briefing.

The truth is that while some of us are naturally more theatrical than others, presentation skills can be learned.

So why are you so bad at public speaking? Why is your audience changing the channel, at least mentally, for 99 percent of your talk?

The issue is a basic flaw in your thinking. Please, rinse and repeat the following four words: It’s not about me. Say it again: It’s not about me.

If you get up there thinking about yourself, I can tell you right now: your talk will have zero impact. Or worse.

The reason great speakers affect us so much is that they are totally swept up in the power of their message.

It is impossible to focus on yourself and also put the spotlight on a topic that matters.

Fear of public speaking is a sign that you’re definitely making this mistake. Your negative emotional investment is a gigantic red flag, signaling that your talk is wrapped around your ego.

The next time you have to give a talk, subtract yourself from the equation. You can prepare to do this in a very simple way — start doing videos. You don’t have to publish them on YouTube or Periscope or anywhere else. You should, however, practice the art of speaking into the camera, on a regular basis, and then play back the video, to see what you look like while talking.

The point is not to evaluate your performance as a speaker. It’s also not to gauge whether you know what you’re talking about. Rather, it’s about getting used to the fact that you actually look pretty bad on video.

Once you accept and get over that fact, and also manage to swallow your many flaws as a speaker, you’ll get past your preoccupation with self altogether.

The truth is that the thing you fear the most is actually very real. You aren’t all that good, you have a million flaws, and when you stand up there people know it.

It’s ceasing to care that allows you to focus on the topic at hand. I happen to have a big nose. It used to embarrass me and I seriously considered a nose job. Now I like to laugh. That’s me, that’s my schnozz, that’s the sun dancing off my wrinkles. It’s okay to go gray and to grow a potbelly, too.

What people really do care about is the beating heart inside you. Good intentions, married with clear thinking, is what carries society forward.

Our most pro-social instincts go to work when we see you on stage. Get over your ego and put your message out front.

Copyright 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer or any other organization or entity.

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D., is a federal communicator with 20 years' experience in the private sector, academia and government. Best known for her work on branding, Dr. Blumenthal now focuses on the discipline of management, particularly the intersections between identity, culture and communication. She has lectured at a variety of schools including The George Washington University and the University of Maryland University College. In her spare time she is an independent community activist, focused primarily on raising awareness about child sexual abuse and domestic violence. All opinions are her own.

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