I attended my first Tedx event a few weeks ago in Philadelphia.  Very Impressive! (TEDx brings the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe. You can learn more about it here: TEDx). Bravo to all the speakers – you taught us something new, challenged us to think bigger and delivered in a way that kept our attention.  Also, a shout out to their coaches. These perfect deliveries don’t just happen.  It was hard work and coaching that got them to this level of performance.  Bravo!

The speakers looked and sounded perfect. The speeches were great. And yet – there was something missing. 

The issue was…they were perfect.  That’s right: the issue is that they were perfect. So what’s wrong with that?  Nothing, when your goal is to inspire and inform a large audience in 15 minutes.  Yet, in our day-to-day life those aren’t the type of presentations we give (nor should we). 

Here’s why:

  • Perfect timing and perfect cadence aren’t how we communicate with our colleagues from day-to-day.
  • When we present in a way that isn’t perfect our audience sees and feels how genuine we are.  TED talk speakers are genuine but the over-rehearsed structure of it in a day-to-day encounter might be misinterpreted as disingenuous.
  • Our “stumbles,” “mistakes,” and in-the-moment “hiccups” are what people can relate to and expect.  They also keep our audience engaged.
  • We don’t have the time or resources to prepare a presentation like that.  These speakers spend days – even weeks – working on the content and with coaches helping them with their delivery.  Rarely do we have that luxury.

Please don’t take this too literally – of course there are some scenarios at work where if you gave a “perfect” presentation people would be impressed.  I’m reminding you that you do not need to put all that pressure on yourself.  Prepare as best you can, but know that being you, having a few filler words or going off script is more than okay (and often even better)!

Go on enjoying all those wonderfully inspirational and informative TED talks, but know that when you present to your organization, no one is expecting perfection.