3 Ways to Kill Your Credibility When Presenting to a Group

In The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner write:

Credibility is the foundation of leadership.  If you doubt the messenger, you doubt the message.

Last week, I was leading an intensive workshop for a company in the professional services industry.  I’m helping their consultants to become more effective communicators.  Over the multi-day training, the consultants had a lot of opportunities to get up and present to each other, and give and receive feedback.

In the coaching and feedback, we were able to pinpoint specific behaviors that boost credibility–and other actions that kill it.

Here are 3 ways to kill your credibility:

  1. Read PowerPoint slides word for word.

Nothing screams “amateur” more than someone who literally reads text verbatim from a screen.  If you do this, how much value are you adding?  Zero.   I can read the slides as easily as you can.  If you’re going to read them, please just email your slide deck and I can read them myself.  Plus, it’ll save me the hassle and expense of having to travel to a location and have you read them to me.

Solution:  Preparation.  What’s the key message that your slide is about?  Spend time getting to the root, and then have a valuable perspective about how that point relates to the needs of your audience.

2.  Share your “Inside Voice” with your audience.In your head, there’s a running commentary on your presentation.  For example, “This chart is overly detailed and not very relevant to you, so I’m going to plow through it quickly and move on.”That may be true.  But don’t say it out loud.  Doing so is extra noise that drowns out the signal of what you’ve worked so hard to create:  a clear compelling message.

Solution:  Keep your inside voice inside.  Not sharing every little thought in your head does not diminish your authenticity.  There’s a reason that authors use editors.  You’ve got to edit your messaging, too.

3.  Keep shifting  your legs and moving around

A few of the consultants had the issue where they couldn’t stand up and keep still.  They’d rock, fidget and move their legs around.  All of that activity upstaged their content.  They looked extremely inexperienced.  Their squirming sent the message “I want to be anywhere but here.”

Solution:  Rehearsal and a “1:00/7:00” stance.  Part of the floundering is due to nerves.  Rehearsal–that is, getting up and actually going through the presentation in front of a practice audience–over and over again will diminish the nervous motion.

Another quick fix is to change your stance.  Instead of trying to stand still with your feet side to side (at the 3:00/9:00 position), shift closer to a 1:00/7:00 stance.  Then, practice minimizing the rocking from leg to leg so that it becomes imperceptible.  If you do move, this alternate direction will be less distracting to your audience.

What other credibility killers do you know, and what solutions do you have to overcome them?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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