I gave a couple of presentations already this week. Both were somewhat informal. No slides. Fewer than 25 in each group. 

Today I was Skyped into a student staff meeting at Stanford. That was a first for me. It’s an odd experience to not be physically in the room with the audience. It was a challenge to read the room as I was staring at a fuzzy image on my computer screen while talking in a louder voice than normal, trying extra hard to be heard far away on the west coast. The faces were somewhat pixelated (or maybe that’s just how people in Palo Alto look), so I couldn’t rely on the subtle feedback cues of expressions and body language that I usually adjust my energy to during a talk.

I left both presentations this week, though, feeling satisfyingly drained. I don’t know if what I said connected, or if I made a difference in any way. There were no surveys to give me direct feedback. I seemed to be received warmly and thanked enthusiastically, but the satisfaction for me was intrinsic. I just enjoyed the experience and felt that I gave both audiences something worthwhile. 

If I finish a presentation and don’t immediately feel the need to sit and chill for a few minutes, then I know I probably didn’t give enough energy to the effort. And energy can make up for a lack of eloquence or clumsy structure or even lame slides. (But don’t make lame slides.)

Care enough to uncork enthusiasm and give your audience all you can. It takes courage. Enthusiasm and caring somehow seem risky and vulnerable. But it’s a low risk and one, unfortunately, too few presenters take. 

Don’t hold back next time you present. Don’t give in to caution and the inner voice of resistance that wants to keep you safely mediocre and forgettable. Be awesome instead.