Are you making the same mistake in your presentations as Jamie Oliver?

Posted on Mar 31

Grrr!!! I’m frustrated. Jamie Oliver’s newest venture on TV – Jamie’s Dream School is a success, but for me it’s based on a huge, incorrect supposition.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Jamie is trying to improve the education of 20 teenagers …. by calling on “Britain’s best inspirational experts” to try to engage them with learning.
And they are an impressive bunch of people with international reputations……. and here’s where the big mistake comes in.
I first came across this same mistaken idea many years ago as a teacher and I was really surprised to find that it is actually around a lot in the business world too. It‘s untrue and what’s more, buying into it severely restricts the success that is achieved.
So what is the mistake in Jamie’s Dream School and how does it limit your success in business?
The mistake is relying on the idea that knowledge is enough – enough to inspire youngsters and enough to bombard people with boring facts and figures in a business presentation  (see Death by PowerPoint)!
The end result is the same – a bored and switched off audience, whether that is students, possible clients, investors or business connections.
I was at a business conference last week where the people who were presenting were extremely knowledgeable about their topics (actually I assumed they were, maybe not) but it was really difficult to concentrate because it was delivered in such a BORING way.
Most made no attempt to connect with the audience. It was just about talking at people.
Now I don’t believe anybody sets out to give a boring presentation on purpose, (although I have come across a couple of teachers in the past who I’m not so sure about!) but it is so important to keep the attention of your audience.
This is obvious isn’t it? Everyone knows that ……so why do so many people find it hard to do?
Because they think that presenting is just about talking about what you know – that if they stand up and speak that will be enough.
But  actually it‘s a privilege to have an audience listen to you as a speaker. It is not a given right. You have to earn their attention and this is a big mistake that most speakers make, including the experts in Jamie’s Dream School.
The audience, whoever they are, have given up their time to come and listen and as presenters we have a responsibility to provide them with something that will be of value to them and not from your perspective but from theirs, because if they don’t see any value in what you are talking about why should they listen to you?
Just knowing a lot is not enough. Being an expert in your field is not enough.

You have to learn how to connect and engage with your audience.
And here are five  ways you can start to do that…..

1. Now this may sound obvious but so many presenters don’t do it! A really great way to connect with people is to SMILE , because 98% of the time you will get a smile back which means that they have responded to you and you have begun to connect. And it helps you to feel better too.

2. We like people who are like us so make a point of beginning your presentation with something that is of common ground, that everyone in your audience can relate to. Do make sure it is genuine though and not made up because otherwise it will have the opposite effect, sound patronising and will probably switch them off.

3. Tell them something about yourself. I’m not talking about sharing your personal deepest thoughts (although that does sometimes have its place) but just something that people can relate to, that shows you are like them.

4. Be who you are. You are more attractive and likeable when you are authentic. People find it hard to connect with others when they’re wearing a mask or putting on an act. People are more likely to trust you when you are real and genuine.

5. Don’t show off and bombard them with too much information in your presentation. Instead think about how you can provide them with some little nuggets to take away that will be of value to them.

Because truly effective communication is not only about knowledge. It’s about connecting and engaging with other people to add value – and that’s what’s missing so much of the time both in Jamie’s Dream School and in business and it’s really easy to change.

Until next time……
With best wishes for your success,

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Posted on Mar 31 in Business Presentations, Communication skills, Presentation Skills
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  • Jane Hafren

    Hi Cath,

    Really liked this blog post. I saw a bit of Jamies programme the other night and was struck by his despair about what one or two of the young people are going to experience later in life.

    You’re right about him and his other presenters assuming knowledge is enough. These young people’s behaviour is screaming out to be accounted for… They’re angry for a reason and they need to have someone engage with them. Threats have never worked with this group and they won’t work now…

    AND it is a real Priviledge to be given the time and space to present to an audience, so treat it as such. Respect their time – it’s a precious gift, and offer them something of REAL value.



    • cath

      Thanks Jane. I haven’t bothered watching any more because I was getting annoyed by the whole idea that it’s all the kids fault for not engaging rather than the responsibility of the “teachers” to engage them. It’s down to not really valueing or appreciating what enormous and complex skills it takes to be a good teacher of teenagers – and a godd trainer od adults as well because the same myth holds true in adult training as well.

  • Michelle

    Great topic with some useful reminders, I totally agree about the Jamie Oliver programme, it could have been so good!!

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