I was working with a client last week and all through the session, I could tell there was something bothering her. I always assume that it’s something I’m doing that she can’t get over. My aftershave, accent or irritatingly intense manner. But this time I was wrong.
She told me, eventually, that she didn’t like ‘my style of presentation’, meaning the ‘you are the message’ approach that asks the presenter to be the most interesting thing about the speech. She continued by saying that she preferred ‘hiding behind the materials, and being in the background.’ I responded with a great deal of empathy.
I said that she must do as she felt comfortable doing, but it was the audience that preferred this ‘style of presenting’, not just me. And that if her preference for ‘disappearing’ left her audience detached from her, and meant that it stopped her being as influential as her intelligence and perspective deserved, then that was a real shame.
She was just frightened of being the centre of attention, that’s all. The simple, human fear of ‘separation’. She just needed encouragement, feedback from her colleagues that she could do it, and more experience.
Once she had become more comfortable with the approach, throughout the 2-day session, she was very good. But I do, admittedly, sometimes forget that it is a big leap for an inexperienced presenter to make.
Still, it’s worth remembering that audiences crave interesting, engaged, committed presenters. They want opinions, they want fascinating facts and relevant anecdotes. But more than all of that, they want to see, know, and like the person speaking. Hide behind the content and most of the interest for the audience is gone.