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Don’t let your presentations get too easy

Some presentations are pretty easy to give... but should any presentation really be that easy to give?


I went for a run the other day. I had set my sights on a 6.5-mile run along Lake Washington in Seattle. As I got going, I realized I was feeling really good. It felt like I could run forever.

I decided to test just how good I felt, and how long it might last. I picked up my pace to see what would happen. Did I suddenly have a magical power?  

As I picked up the pace, I could definitely begin to feel the burn in my legs and lungs. Five miles into the run, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to be able to run forever. When I arrived back home, I was glad to be done with that run.

I was glad because it was over. I was also glad because I was able to push myself, and next time out I know there’s another gear I can use to push myself.

As I was running, I began to reflect how this run was a sort of metaphor for my own training and presentation skills. I’m often asked to present on the same topic. There are times when I feel like I can do the same presentation over and over and feel good about it every time… and there are times when I deliver the same presentation and just get bored with it.

Even if it’s not the same topic or presentation, there are times when I find myself on cruise control, using the same activities, staying in my comfort zone. As I reflect on this habit, I get frustrated with myself because I know I can do better, and I know I owe it to the learners to do better. When I’m in the audience for a presentation, there are many times when I feel the presenter or trainer has chosen to stay in their comfort zone, there are many time I feel the presenter or trainer owes it to me to push themselves a little (or a lot) more.

Are you looking for some ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Let your audience use their smart phones to engage with your content using real time polling ( or an every-person-for-themselves style quiz (
  2. Or visit Jane Hart’s Top 200 tools for learning if you want to discover some other new technology.
  3. Try eliminating PowerPoint. I dare you.
  4. Before you respond to a participant’s question, give the rest of your learners control over the answer by using the boomerang technique.
  5. Change up your end-of-session evaluation forms using Will Thalheimer’s guidelines in order to get some better, more actionable data and in order to make sure you’re being accountable to your learners. Here is one example. Here is another.
  6. After presenting data to a group, allow time for discussion on how the data can be improved and/or what the data means to each person in the room.
  7. Instead of launching right into your content, work on perfecting your opening so that you can get everyone else in your audience interested or intrigued about your presentation. Jane McGonigal has a great example of how to do this in her TED Talk entitled: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.
  8. Try not to jam everything into your presentation. If you pique your audience’s interest enough, they’ll want to learn more. They’re not going to master your content in 15 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour, so don’t try to put everything in there anyway. Phil Waknell has some thoughts on how you can do that in this video.

Have you found some other ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone and bring your presentations to the next level? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.

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