What’s Changed in the Last 20 Years?

Last month we started to answer the question that was asked of me in a workshop, “what’s changed in the last 20 years in the world of presenting?” For better or for worse, the issue of technology and powerpoint overtook our first blog, so for those of you who have been patiently waiting for further thoughts on the issue, completion and closure are finally here.

In short, there are 4 further key areas in which business presenting has noticeably changed over the last couple of decades:

  1. Ubiquity of presenting – there are almost no jobs left in which you can get by on your technical skills alone that don’t also require you to sell your ideas, collaborate with colleagues, influence others and present to your team and/or management. The expectation of communication skills, people skills, influencing and presentation skills are now omnipresent but the teaching of them, in secondary and tertiary education, is not…so equip yourself!
  1. Standard of presenting – it’s not just the quantity of presenting that has increased but the quality. With the pervasiveness of TED Talks, podcasts and Youtube access to business leaders’ presentations across the globe, we are exposed to the best of the best and those speakers’ techniques are copied in boardrooms in the farthest reaches. Add to that, that our audiences’ attention spans have decreased with the commensurate increase in devices, and you have a recipe for increased expectation of not just information but entertainment. The onus is on us to consciously engage our listener, deliberately include anecdotes and analogies into our presentations, vary our slides and draw on the full range of our delivery, to keep the audience’s attention and convey our message such that it will be heard and retained.
  1. Brevity – In this world of back-to-back meetings, email, messenger and social media notifications, 7 second sound bites, broken concentration, multiple and incessant demands and reduced attention spans, we need to master the art of being crystal clear with our own messages and conveying those succinctly and directly with no room for misinterpretation to others.
  1. Informality – just as we dress less formally for work these days, eat less formally at home and text each other emojis, so business presenting has become less formal. No more “Ladies and Gentlemen”, “I put it to you” or “I would like to propose”. As with business writing, plain English and a conversational tone, are now the standard. This should be of course, the easiest thing in the world to achieve but with a few nerves pumping through the system, the adrenal glands working overtime and heart rate raised, maintaining our natural voice, language and tone can be surprisingly challenging. The antidote? Catch yourself in the act of being you in your daily communications and then replicate the body language and voice you use all day every day in your presentation scenarios whether sit down, stand up, large scale, small scale, internal, external, senior or junior. This is, dare I say, also where training can have it’s biggest impact so seek it out for greater comfort, poise and ease on your feet.

In short, focus and deliberate engagement are the order of the day and if you’re having trouble putting some of these ideas into action in a way that is natural and authentic for you, please get in touch.

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