Michael Richards used to be known as the lovable and loony Kramer of the popular TV show Seinfeld. Now Richards is known as a racist.
Whether he is or isn’t a racist is unimportant. He demonstrated racist characteristics in his angry rant and with the words he used. He apologized – but it’s difficult to erase the image of that rant. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and feels like a duck, then it must be a duck. That is the way your audience judges you when you speak.
Tell an off-color joke over a drink with a friend - no big deal; however, do the same thing while presenting to a roomful of people and you will be crucified. It could derail your career, kill a deal or ruin the company.
When you present to an audience you are under extra scrutiny. Everything you do on stage is magnified. If you were boring, folks remember you as very boring. If you looked nervous folks remember you as going to pieces. If you talked down to people you will be remembered as totally arrogant.
The negatives tend to be remembered more than the positives. Did you notice that no one mentioned any of the good jokes that Richards told in that presentation? We just seem to remember painful moments more. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism. “Don’t go to Kramer’s presentations - they are too painful”.
The second lesson is to be prepared for things to go wrong during your presentation.
When a joke fails have a saver line. When your listeners look confused have a different analogy. When your equipment crashes know what you will do. When you make a mistake have a backup ready. That takes forethought, preparation and rehearsal.
The third lesson is to never speak before an audience in anger, fear or desperation. Never!
Please read that last sentence again. Maybe even write it on your notes of every presentation you ever deliver.
Let’s talk about how to deal with anger, fear and desperation in another post on this blog.
Speech Coach for Executives