Don’t be the hero when you’re presenting

 In Presenting, Realizer Blog

4 weeks ago I wrote a post about presenting called, “It’s not about the content” which got lots of positive reaction.

The idea was that people write presentations that focus on the content, the stuff. Whereas presentations are experiences. They should change people’s minds. They are about the audience.

So, there is a second insight I wanted to share with you.

You are not the hero of your presentation.

Unless you have climbed Everest without oxygen and been invited to come talk about your journey, you are not the hero.

Actually, even then, your I-climbed-Everest presentation is probably better if you consider the learnings that other people can gain (without having to climb to 30,000 feet).

However, a lot of presentations start by saying, “let me tell you about me” … and proceed to “let me tell you about why my product is the number 1 at X”.

You’ve sat in those presentations, right? Wondering how it relates to you and your challenges. Wondering why they have to lead with telling you how great they are.

So there’s a better way. And it’s simple. You make sure the audience is the hero of the presentation.

The presentation is about them, and they are a hero facing some significant challenges. We often use a version of the classic Hero’s Journey story to provide the underlying structure:-

1. Meet the hero.
2. Explore the hero’s everyday life.
3. Suddenly the hero faces a challenge.
4. The hero goes on a journey to find the solution.
5. A solution is revealed.
6. There is a happy ending.

To reiterate, the hero is not you, it’s the audience. So you start with “let me tell you about you” and proceed to “let me tell you why I think your product is great”. Then you show you understand their everyday life – i.e. business context – before landing on what you believe is their biggest challenge.

One last question remains.

If you aren’t the hero, what are you?

The hero is one of 12 archetypes which appear in stories and in life. If the audience is the hero, then there are 3 other archetypes that can help you nail an amazing presentation. You can choose from:

The Sage.
You are wise, you are an expert. You help them make sense of their world by advising them on their journey and helping them discover a solution to their problems. You are Hermione in Harry Potter, or Dr Spock in Star Trek.

How a Sage presents.

In the introduction, show how your credibility and experience relates to their business and their problems. Show a deeper understanding of their problem than they have. Demonstrate insights that help them solve their problem. But let them make the decisions.

The Magician

You are brilliant at conjuring ideas out of nowhere. You reveal magical ideas in your presentations. Things that people never would have thought of. Energy and excitement will be important. You are Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, or Doc Brown in Back to the Future.

How a Magician presents.

A magician reveals an idea during their presentation, one that no-one was expecting. As a presenter, you must craft your presentation carefully, managing their attention to certain key points of data and information, before revealing an unexpected solution. Use of presentation theatre, and strong imagery would be wise.

The Explorer

You don’t have all the answers. But you invite the hero to come with you on the journey for the sake of learning and discovery. You are motivated by finding a better way and you lay out a plan to do so. You are Indiana Jones or Captain Kirk.

How an Explorer presents.

An explorer is more humble, they don’t claim to know the answers, but they are brave, and they have a good map. And they have been exploring before. So in the first half of your presentation, you are highlighting key questions that we don’t know the answer to. Questions that we could explore together. And of course, answering those questions should have a significant pay-off. And in the second half of your presentation, you show the details and estimated costs of this expedition, and the likely timeframe.

In summary
Finding your role – as a Sage, Magician or Explorer – allows you to be a powerful presenter and make the audience feel like the hero of the presentation.


Rob Pyne