The #1 Skill of a Great Presenter

The Wedding Singer Paradox

I have been told that when I stand in front of an audience and deliver a presentation that I appear confident and unfazed by the size of the group I am speaking to. I think this is true because of four things:

  1. I know the topic really well.
  2. I have studied and practiced and I am ready to deliver.
  3. I am energized and excited to share with the audience what I know
  4. I am completely aware that I could be wrong – i.e. there are other smart people in the room!

By being competent and prepared and knowing that I have what it takes to deliver this message, I am confident and energized. By keeping in mind that there are other smart people in the room and I might not know everything there is to know on this subject, I infuse enough humility to ward off the appearance of arrogance that many speakers adopt as they grow in their expertise.

The Wedding Singer Paradox

So, with all that said, why did I waiver when asked to sing at a friends wedding this past weekend? Isn’t singing just another form of public speaking which I DO FOR A LIVING?? Yes and No!

Yes, there is an audience. Yes, I am prepared. Yes, there is a message to deliver. But, NO, it is not the same as doing a standup presentation. Why is that? Because singing is a skill that you either have or you don’t have. Everyone can speak, some better than others, but we all speak. Singing is judged! (think Reality TV shows). There is no “America’s Got Speaking Skills” TV Show, is there??

The Greatest Skill of All

Fortunately, in my early public speaking days I had a coach observe me and provide me feedback. What he shared with me changed my life as a professional speaker and this weekend, made even singing for people an enjoyable event. The greatest skill that I think a professional speaker (or an amateur singer) can possess is to remember that everyone in your audience is tuned to the same station – WII-FM (“What’s In It For Me”). They are not there to evaluate how you look, or sound, or how smart you are, which is where my brain instinctively wants to go. No, they are there for bigger reasons than YOU.

As I arrive at every venue where I will speak (or sing this past weekend) I arrive early enough to walk the room and ask myself, what is my message for this audience today? What nugget can I give them that will help them grow and be better? In the case of the wedding song, as much as I want to give a good performance and for everyone to be in awe of me and my talent, I forced my brain to think about the bride and groom and that this was their special day. No one, not one person, was there to see me sing. So I asked myself, what is the message of this song as it relates to the couple at the altar? What truth could this song provide to the 100+ people in the audience?

As the couple moved to light the unity candle and I walked to the microphone to deliver the song I had one last thought – let this be meaningful for those that need this message today. It’s not about me.

It’s Not About You!

The beauty of developing this skill is that after the performance you don’t have a need for people to flock to you and tell you how great you did. Although some will, and that feels good, it’s not what’s important. It’s not about the song, or my skill. It’s about the message and adding value to the lives of the people who were in that room on that day.

Keep your focus off of you and you can do amazing things in front of audiences of any size….whether your are speaking or singing.

Photo Credit: GraphicStock.com

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9 thoughts on “The #1 Skill of a Great Presenter

  1. This resonates with me, and my experience of both kinds of 'performance' you mention.
    But it seems to me that 'It's not about me' is a pretty good mantra for all parts of our lives, don't you think?
    Thanks for sharing

  2. Hey Perry,

    There's an excellent book called 'The Perfect Wrong Note' by Prof William Westney that talks specifically to this point. The energy needs to go from you into the room (in order for it to come back to you).

    Best
    Paul