Perfect is the enemy of great presentations.

It hit me today that I am not the only person who would benefit from a huge banner hung in my office, home and possibly car that read, “Let yourself off the hook.” Like a lot of people I know, I spend way too much time beating myself up for things I’m doing wrong, things I’m not doing enough, things I’m doing too much…My friend Marc Tannenbaum likes to tell me, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” a saying I have (frankly) hated for a long time. But I’m starting to see what he means.  Wanting to be perfect may be a good goal, but it’s also an unattainable one, and, more likely, an unproductive one.  I know this is true when it comes to presentations, and I think this is what gets many presenters hung up.

When we think we want our presentation to be perfect, we’re most likely thinking of it as a performance rather than a communication.  Perfect to many misguided presenters means using the correct hand gestures, moving around the stage dramatically, modulating the voice. Taken a step further, the perfect performance-driven presenter thinks he needs someone to help him determine these gestures, stage moves and voice modulation.  This is what’s known as acting, not presenting. These are all attributes of performance, not of communication.  And a presentation is all about communicating, not performing.  More important, communication is based on trust, and trust is based on believing what’s coming out of the speaker’s mouth which is based on believing in the speaker’s authenticity.  Acting is the antithesis of authenticity; you’re trying to be something you’re not.  Presenters treating their presentation as performance and therefore attempting to be a perfect performer will fail miserably in the true goal of their presentation, which is to communicate.

Even worse, performers focus on themselves, successful presenters focus on their audience.   In a performance the focus is on the performer.  In a presentation the focus is on the message. Success for performers?  The standing ovation, love and accolades.  Success for the presenter?  Understanding and adoption of their idea.

Hey, you, perfectionist: get straight about presentation and your focus and goal.  It is not a performance nor should you think of it that way.  It will be a success if it’s built from the ground up with a focus on the audience. It will be a success if they understand and adopt it. You? You’re merely the vehicle through which it comes to them.  You’re nothin’. (No offense.) So don’t get hung up on thoughts of performance.  Let yourself off the hook; think communication; NOT perfection, and you’ll be heard.

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