3 Rules of an Awesome Presentation Perfectionists Need to Know

3 Rules of an Awesome Presentation Perfectionists Need to Know

Cover of Goodbye, Perfect by Homaira Kabir

Goodbye, Perfect – The Book

A science-backed and soulful journey to embrace your authentic expression and build the confidence to live an empowered and purpose-driven life.

Discover the essential rules of an awesome presentation for perfectionists. Learn strategies to captivate your audience and boost self-worth.

“I’m not sure how it went”, read my daughter’s text. She was participating in a cross-university competition and her team had just presented their business case to the panel of judges.

“It wasn’t polished at all” she replied when I asked her why. Shortly after, she wrote: “It was fun though”.

I smiled to myself. My daughter is both highly ambitious and a perfectionist. Like many high-achievers, she has extremely high standards of herself and puts in an insane number of hours making sure her work leaves no stone unturned. Sometimes I see her enjoy the process. But most times, she drives herself (and everyone around her) batty with the demands she places on herself.

As a former perfectionist, I worry that perfectionism may hinder her success and fulfillment as she progresses in her career. With increasing demands on her time, she’ll need to let go of the urge to dot all i’s and cross all t’s before she can put her work away. She’ll need to stop perfecting her tasks and presentations, and learn to take the leap with “good enough”.

If she doesn’t, she’ll struggle like many of the women who come to me for coaching. They are doubting themselves, feeling cynical about their boss or advancement prospects, and looking outside for other options. What they don’t realize is that perfection and the inability to delegate does not position them well for leadership roles. In her book How Women Rise, women’s leadership expert Sally Helgesen explains that many of the behaviors that help us early in our careers (like attention to detail), become hurdles to advancement because leadership places different demands on us.

Besides, career progress often coincides with advancing age where women are straddling multiple demands on their time. Many of my clients are struggling with the guilt of not spending time with their family. They also feel frustrated they aren’t going to the gym, meeting friends or attending the art class they signed up for. Many are poised on the brink of burn out and questioning their ambitions, their career decisions, even their ability to be a good mother, partner, daughter or friend.

If you relate, the answer lies in letting go of your addiction to perfection, not in changing jobs or careers — that is a later decision. This means building your sense of self-worth, so you’re not driven to prove yourself in a job you’ve already earned, for fear you’ll reveal your self-perceived incompetence or unworthiness.

This is why presentations are excellent opportunities to build self-worth. They’re tied to the two deepest fears we live with — that of failing (incompetence) and that of being rejected (unworthiness). By putting ourselves in front of an audience who is expecting us to have something knowledgeable to share, we are at our most vulnerable, and most desperate to resort to perfection.

To deliver a great presentation, prioritize connection over perfection. This helps to distance ourselves from the urge to be perfect. Dr. Jennifer Crocker at the Ohio State University, who researches self-esteem, says that this the process of going “from ego to eco” is particularly effective in building our sense of self-worth.

How do we do so? Following these simple rules for an awesome presentation:

Rule # 1: Be Passionate about the Subject 

Drop the thoughts of preparing the perfect presentation and truly immerse yourself in the topic you’ll be speaking about. What are the stats or stories that may pique the audience’s interest. What are the latest insights or twists that no one is talking about? When you approach your topic with passion, you exude an energy and excitement that is infectious.

Rule # 2: Do Not Write a Script

Psychologist and Harvard professor Ellen Langer says that she never writes a script for her presentations. It gives her the freedom to be present in the moment, aware of attendees’ cues, and able to go with the flow. No wonder my daughter found her unpolished presentation “fun”. Without the stress to follow a rigid script, she could be more human and alive.

Rule # 3: Break it down into 3-5 points

Create a general outline. Break your presentation down into the three to five points you want your audience to walk away with. This is great because the brain likes to categorize in small numbers. Adding too much nuance or packing your presentation with excessive information can quickly lose your audience.

Side note: My daughter’s team came first place in the competition! I’m hoping it’ll be a good reminder for her that putting connection before perfection not only makes you enjoy the process, it also leads to great results. This is what I want to encourage with these rules of an awesome presentation.

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Homaira Kabir

Homaira Kabir

Written by mentor, author and founder of the Goodbye Perfect Project, Homaira Kabir. Homaira Kabir holds Master’s degrees in Coaching Psychology and in Positive Psychology – the science of human flourishing and wellbeing – from the University of East London. She has just published her latest book ‘Goodbye Perfect: How To Stop Pleasing, Proving and Pushing For Others… and Live For Yourself

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