Presentations: Where Intellectual Curiosity Goes to Die

Christopher Witt —  August 27, 2012

At one of my workshops, I asked how a presentation differs from a speech. People offered several possibilities. Then an engineer who rarely spoke — he was an engineer, after all — piped up. “I don’t know what the difference is,” he said. “But I do know that most presentations are the place where intellectual curiosity goes to die.”

Sadly, his remark hit too close to home.

Many presentations kill curiosity. There are numerous exceptions, of course. (Consider some of theĀ TED talks.) But far too many business presentationsĀ breed boredom, stifle discussion, and discourage inquiry.

Here are some questions to ask about your presentation to determine whether it’s a curiosity killer or not:

  • Are you interested, maybe even fascinated, by the idea you’re presenting? (If not, why are you talking about it? And why would you expect anyone else to interested in it?)
  • Do you want to know more about the issue, yourself? Do you find yourself asking more questions about it?
  • What reason do you have to believe that your audience might be interested in it? (Don’t say, “they should be interested.”)
  • Have you stripped away all extraneous information, explanations, detail?
  • Can you explain your idea clearly and concisely? (Confusion and long-windedness are the enemies of curiosity.)
  • Is your idea capable of generating even newer ideas, maybe even in other fields?
  • Do you hope your audience will ask questions? Do you enjoy being asked a question you don’t know the answer to?

What questions would you add?



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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.