I was reading an article about this recently and it started me thinking about whether this phenomenon applies to presentation skills and other aspects of tendering for contracts. And is it possible that by over-estimating our capabilities we are missing valuable opportunities?
Avoiding the issue
One similarity I have noticed between people assessing their driving skills and their presentation skills is that they rarely say explicitly that they are not very good, or very confident. They are much more likely to say that they ‘hate doing it’, or something similar.
If you ‘hate’ driving you can get around the issue by living in a town with good public transport services. But, if your work role includes taking part in presentations (even as a contributor rather than the main presenter) you might not be able to duck out quite so easily.
Ask yourself this: Is it acceptable to use the fact you don’t feel comfortable making presentations, or don’t do it regularly as a reason to expect your audience to make allowances? Or should you take the bull by the horns and find a way to improve your skills? Who knows, you might even end up enjoying the experience.
Do you look like professionals?
Getting different specialists involved in the presentation is usually a good idea – clients often want to see different people in action, not just the person fronting-up the presentation. But, if you’re the boss, and you want your team members to contribute to presentations, are you just setting them (and your organisation) up to look amateurish?
Effective involvement of a wider range of people can often significantly improve your chances of success because it helps build rapport between your team and the client’s team. But don’t make it the equivalent of expecting a newly qualified driver to pilot your shiny new BMW around the M25 during the rush hour. The resulting white-knuckle ride could get expensive!
How good are you, really?
There’s probably less of a taboo about admitting inadequacies when it comes to presentation skills than there is about driving. I’m sure we’ve all experienced people who start their presentations by apologising and sharing the fact that they are going through some kind of personal hell. I’m afraid my reaction is always less than sympathetic: ‘Why don’t you do something about it rather than trying to elicit sympathy and hoping to get away with it.’
But I’ve also observed many more people who think they are better than they really are. And, unlike driving, there’s no test to pass to prove even a basic level of competence.
Ask any experienced driver who has been on an advanced driving skills course whether they learned anything from the experience and what do you think they’ll tell you? They’ll probably tell you that they had adopted some bad habits over the years without realising. They will probably say that they weren’t anything like as competent or skilful as they’d thought. And they will almost certainly tell you that they learned some useful things and became a significantly better driver as a result.
So here’s the big question: If you think you are good at delivering presentations, when did you last get any expert feedback on your skills? Do you really know if you’re using the opportunity offered by client presentations to your maximum advantage and to clinch the deal? And are you aware of any bad habits that may have crept into your delivery that may be harming your chances of success?
A presentation skills coach might not help you with your driving – but a good one may certainly be able to help drive your business success.
Average driver and above average presentation skills coach.
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