For a long time, I trained myself on giving good presentations, speaking well in public, giving an air of confidence. Worked as a teacher, handled classrooms of more than 80 engineering students. Became reasonably competent after doing this a few hundred times.
And now I am learning it’s not the best thing. Not everywhere at least.
An audience sometimes feel intimidated by good presenters and presenters can feel intimidated by a questioning audience. People want conversations. I had this experience recently when after presenting to an audience of one, they told me that they would not hire someone who shows such a presentation. In the next (more high stakes) meeting, I just had a conversation on the same table and it went quite well. Of course, I had my work samples ready, to clarify points in the conversation.
And just as I was thinking of sharing the idea, this came up in my inbox:
This is Fred Wilson of the VC firm Union Square ventures. Find his thoughts here. I find presentations especially ill-suited for small groups, because they hinder critical discussion. When questioned while presenting, the defensive, self-preserving part of the brain is activated, making one less able to listen objectively. Questions seem like attacks, not avenues for discussion.
It’s not a hard skill to master. You just need to have a good story, and make sure you are sitting down on the same table in a small group. Then your audience joins you in the same mission to solve the customer’s problem, and of course you too are more likely to do well.