How we say something may be even more important than what we say.
The story is told of a young blind boy, sitting on a corner with a sign that read: “I am blind, please help.” Next to him was a hat intended to hold coins from passers-by.
His collection was meager; few coins were in the hat. A man came upon the scene, pulled a few coins from his pocket, and placed them in the hat. Then he took the sign, turned it over, and wrote a new message on it. He replaced the sign with the new words facing those who passed.
Soon, the hat began to fill up with coins and bills. Many people were now freely giving their money to the blind boy. Later in the day, the man returned to check on the boy. The blind boy asked him, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”
“I only wrote the truth. I said what you said, but in a different way.” He had written: “Today is a beautiful day, and I cannot see it.”
We often fall into the trap of thinking that it doesn’t matter how we present a particular message. We may settle for the first idea that comes into our heads and never seek to improve it. This is especially true when we are making minor presentations that do not seem to have much impact on our jobs.
But that’s not true. Whether we are presenting a report to the boss, making a sales pitch to investors or buyers, interviewing for a job, seeking a promotion, or providing a briefing, we are judged by the impression we make. Our audience will leave the room with a feeling and perception of our capabilities and potential—negative or positive.
Good coaching advice includes this counsel: “A poor presentation can damage a career. An excellent one will enhance it.” What can you do to develop creativity and greater professionalism in your presentations? What difference would it make if you used more care in how you presented ideas? What skills do you need to develop in order to prepare and give more polished and engaging presentations?
How can you craft a phrase so it grabs your audience and drives your point home? How we say something may be even more important than what we say. Fair or not, image, reputation, and success are at stake.
Here are a few points for reflection:
- Once you gather your content for a presentation, carefully look at how you will present it—your phrases, examples, and illustrations.
Carefully consider who will be in the room. Direct your appeal and content to them. What are their pet peeves? What are their needs and concerns? Ask others for their opinions as you prepare. They may offer a fresh perspective.
- A good rule of thumb is to practice your presentation out loud to yourself before you give it.