Whatever You Do, Do Not Present Like Michael Jackson

When I learned of Michael Jackson’s death yesterday, I recalled the time that I saw him here in Atlanta at the old Fulton County Stadium. He was at the height of his popularity before he became embroiled in a series of bizarre scandals. We sat in the upper deck of the arena and watched him on a giant screen above the stage.

With binoculars, we could see Jackson moonwalking across the stage. The show was executed perfectly.  The lights flashed.  The dancers twirled. But we might just as well have been watching him on television at home. It was such a carefully choreographed show that I felt no connection to him.  It was disappointing.

In my judgment, the show was a failure.  Live audiences want to feel a connection.

Similarly, we’ll sometimes come across speakers who are technically excellent.  They speak with energy. They smile. They use PowerPoint perfectly. They have every hair in place. They have every word carefully scripted.

But like Michael Jackson in that concert, they fail to connect.

I call this the “rock star effect.”  You’re so perfect that you come off as a rock star and don’t ever really connect with the audience.

So what can you do?

The most important thing is to make sure that the audience has a chance to interact with you.  Leave plenty of time for Q&A. Ask the audience questions.  And be sure that you’re willing to adjust your presentation to what you hear from the audience.

In a program recently, one of the participants wanted to know how to organize his thoughts for a conference call.  I heard what he said and adjusted.  During the rest of the workshop, I made sure that I came back to the issue of conference calls.

The goal in a presentation isn’t perfection. The goal is to build a relationship. That requires connection.

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