There are some great presenters. There are people to whom any of us would gladly pay money to let us listen to them read the phone book. The odds are that you are not one of them. I’m certainly not one of them. So, you and I should stop making presentations. Instead, we should engage in conversations with the people with whom we are communicating.

I first learned this decades ago at Procter & Gamble. I was preparing to take some marketing ideas on the road and I asked Steve Knox, one of our sales leaders, to sit through my presentation and give me some pointers. He politely listened to the whole thing. When I was done, I asked him if he had any advice. All he said was “Don’t present.”

I was crushed.

Then he elaborated, explaining that there was nothing wrong with the content. There wasn’t anything wrong with my presentation either – except that it was a presentation. No one likes being presented to. Fortunately, they do like engaging in conversations.

Since then, I have avoided presentations as much as possible. Inevitably, when I engage well with an audience, it feels much more like a two-way conversation. When I fail to engage, I realize I’ve fallen back into the presentation trap.

This is why it’s time to stop making presentations. Convey information by giving people things to read or view in advance. Use your time with other human beings to engage in two-way relationship-building conversations.

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