Why do we present?
In my job as an educator and a presentation coach, I am continually asked ‘How do you present?’, ‘How do I overcome nerves?’, ‘Can I get through a professional life without presenting?’. Yet I keep coming back to a question of my own, time and time again, and I believe that if I can uncover the answer, I will go a great deal further to helping my clients crack the code they are looking for, and so my question; Why do we present?
And for those of you that just answered, ‘because my boss keeps asking me?’ my question to you, ‘WHY does your boss keep asking you to? My pondering requires a deeper and more universal answer than to influence, to sell or to educate. I want to know why we are drawn to presentations as a form. Why do businesses put all their strategies for growth in presentations? Why do people pay the big bucks to attend conferences, why do organisations structure their business around presentations?
From the moment we are born we are hardwired for stories. We love them, we listen, we crave the catharsis (as a validation for own emotions and experience). Once upon a time; is a gateway for so many forms of story in our lives, books, podcasts, TV series, films, theatre, music and all manner of creative truth bombs. Perhaps, that moment of being in a presentation, we as an audience, politely crave an experience that is going to further our understanding of the world around us.
When looking at the form of presentations it’s hard to ignore our aural history. A history of learning that stems from our family tribe and onto our kindy teachers and through to our University lecturers – we look to these people to help us shape meaning from the world around us. Sitting in front of someone in this way there is an culture of trust. You have my mind to shape and extend for the next 30 mins, if you can keep it engaged. And therein lies the transaction between the audience and the presenter.
But deep down there is an even more innate need for us to come together in this way. I believe it is human connection. Let’s share some time together, as part of the community in this group. Let it be a story, let it be learning, let it be laughter, let it be collaboration – we do well in groups, it makes us feel a purpose and a part of something bigger. The cognitive conflict experienced in a group takes us to a higher level of thinking than we could have achieved on our own, and so many answers we require to questions are found in the different perspectives of those around us.
So when we think about it in this way – next time you are asked to present, you are being asked to share a story, you are gifted trust for those few minutes and the opportunity to be a part of a human connection – to share, to shape and to connect! So when you think about it in that way, the people in front of you don’t want you to be scared they just want you to continue being human.