Powerful Presentations Tip #7: Prepare to be Present

While the previous six steps/tips are each critical to creating a more powerful learning experience, they must be buttressed by the power of presence, the ultimate presenter gift to participants.

We’ve all been in a session in which the room crackled with energy and insight. That doesn’t happen when presenters are so tied to their slides, notes, and outline that everything runs according to script. In the best sessions the learning happens in the center of the room, in that space where participant and presenter contributions collide, mix, and form new meaning and understanding.

That only occurs when you as the presenter have prepared exhaustively resulting in your ultimate command of the content and your total ease with modifying format and focus on the fly based on participants’ needs and energy. Facilitating learning is an improvisational skill. The best presenters take every offbeat line and curve participants throw at them and respond, “Yes, and” just as great improvisation requires. Saying no stops the energy, the flow, and ultimately, the learning.

This is why great presenting is so difficult, but so worthwhile. It requires you to prepare so thoroughly that you can effortlessly reorder your content or change the learning format for a particular segment without participants knowing you have done so. It demands the deepest listening and awareness … to what is being said now, to what has been said before, to what is not being said … and to connect these thoughts in real-time to the overall content you are presenting. On days when I have been most successful as a presenter, I finish the session completely spent from the external conversations I have had with participants and the internal discussions I have had with myself.

So once you complete a session design that you find satisfying, direct your attention to all the questions you need to answer and the actions you need to takes so that you can be 100% present during the presentation. Turning off your cellphone isn’t enough. You have to turn off the rest of the world so that nothing interferes with the incredible opportunity you’ve been given … to turn on the learning and understanding participants come to us seeking.