Presenting 101: Is there an elephant in the room?

Presenting 101: Is there an elephant in the room?

When it comes to presenting to a group, there’s one major step that most presenters miss.

Many leaders get up on stage and spend an hour presenting a new strategy, explaining how exciting and challenging it’s going to be, when their audience is either tired, because they’ve heard it all before, or concerned, because they don’t know how it is going to affect them.

The one thing they are not is excited. The presenter has failed to address the elephant in the room: connecting to what the audience is really thinking or feeling.

Recently, I went to my daughter’s school for a year 8 information evening. Midway through the night, a “parenting expert” came onto the stage and every parent in the room rolled their eyes.

Sensing everyone’s displeasure, the expert said: “You’re probably thinking ‘Not another parenting expert – will I ever get home?’” The guilty audience burst out laughing.

She then took it a step further, saying: “As a parent myself, I’ve often felt this too. We all know that parenting is the toughest job on earth. It was once said: ‘You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.’ So I’m here to share some tips with you that we, as parents, can all use on days when patience is in short supply. As parents of teenagers you will have lots of these days.”

Not only did she address the elephant, but she invited it into the room with us and used it to her advantage to bond with us.

It takes courage to address the elephant in the room and as author and novelist Ellen Wittlinger said: “When there’s an elephant in the room you can’t just pretend it’s not there and just discuss the ants.”

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