What Has Happened to Spontaneity?

I had mixed emotions while watching Tiger Woods’ mea culpa moment two weeks ago. Same with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. And a recent presentation that a client gave. All of these events shared a common thread.

Several dozen politicians could have learned from Tiger on how to issue a public apology, and the Canada’s Olympic Committee crafted a breathtaking show. So did my client.

This is unfair to the Olympics, it’s only sin being the timing of all of this. The carefully-crafted performance came around the same time as so many others that I either watched or was in the room for. It got me thinking…

Does everything have to be staged these days?
What would happen if public figures went without a script?

The Woods spectacle was so tightly controlled, the Golf Writers Association of America chose to boycott the event. If they couldn’t ask questions, they argued, it was not a true news event and not worthy of their participation.

And then there’s my client. So focused was he on the performance aspect of his presentation, he had it timed to the second, and one of his slides had 13 builds on it. The slide was scheduled to be displayed for roughly 20 seconds. And it was just a quarterly update to a management team!

I don’t get it. Have we forgotten how to engage an audience without a stage director? Have we lost sight of why people attend a presentation? Do we think that audience members walk into a room just dying to see our slides?

Perhaps Carmen Taran said it best at last year’s PowerPoint Live (now the [intlink id=”415″ type=”page”]Presentation Summit[/intlink]), when she spoke of the importance of, to use her words, “presenting naked.” This speaks to the value of being genuine and having no barriers between presenter and audience. While I acknowledge the value of theater (and again, the Olympic festivities were phenomenal), I wouldn’t want to see the message lost in the medium, and all too often, my clients are ready to do just that.

We need less staging and more speaking. Less theater, more engagement.

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