The problem with slideshows is that whilst they are a great way of getting across information, they are also a way of hiding in clear sight. Sometimes, I go to a presentation where the content is highly relevant but the speaker is simply not making an impression on me. It’s possible to overload the audience with facts and figures without really engaging with them. So there are a number of presenters who need these visual distractions because they aren’t strong enough elsewhere and, in particular, with their voice.
But I’ve noticed that this trend is changing. We see it with Google for example, where their senior executives are encouraged to present in a bolder, fresher style which is less text heavy and uses lots of white space. Try and watch Google CEO Sundar Pichai in action and you will see a very minimal use of information (words and numbers) on slides which forces the attention on him and his message.
I think I’m happy with how I sound but I am always looking to improve. I’ve realised the importance of that from watching and listening to people who I think are great presenters, like Nic Rixon and Darren Shirlaw, who I present alongside at Google (they are the founding partners of Shirlaws). Both have a different pace and style but come across as highly authentic.
This begs the question, what is it that makes them sound so authentic? I’m fairly certain, for them, it is because they are absolutely clear about their intent. They know themselves, know what they are about and why they do what they do with absolute clarity. One can also hear their accents as true and pure to their upbringing. I’m biased here and will freely admit it. I regularly favour the authenticity of a slight regional accent to what I deem as ‘put on’ and who am I to judge?
Sometimes, I think it is harder for someone who is really well-spoken to come across as authentic. I find myself sitting there judging ‘are they as intelligent as they sound?’ or is it just a privileged education? I think a lot of British business people have become more sceptical about taking on people who are well-spoken, more so than they would have been previously. Sometimes they carry a perception of being well-educated but not that bright. So a good impression is not necessarily about being well-spoken (whatever that means), it’s about being utterly convincing with your voice.
My final thoughts on this, from my own personal experience, are that for me to bring out my true voice I need a subject matter that really inspires me. I find it hard to put on an act if I don’t believe what I’m talking about. To this end, as I prepare my presentations, I try now to put in content that fires up the passion in me so that I know it will then find it’s way to what I actually say.