It was Tom Lehrer who said,
“Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.”
This holds true to any kind of work. Any report, presentation, or project; any outcome is going to be dictated by the effort you put into it.
Why do average or below-average slides exist when you know that this is Presentation Sin #1?
I find that the almost is almost always that you need to hand something in to your boss, more or less, as homework—and those slides never really get fixed.
I was a bright student in school, but I’d always hated homework. I soaked up information like a sponge and did well on tests but I consistently put in half or no effort when it came to handing in assignments because it bored the hell out of me.
I wanted to do something more fun with my precious time, like watch the end of Days of Our Lives.
Honestly, I wanted to spend time being creative and reports and longhand math was cramping my style. I couldn’t make myself do it. Thank god NY State had regents exams or else I might still be a junior in high school.
It’s the same way with slides. Hearts and souls aren’t there and the justifications are as varied as they are familiar:
“This is how it’s always been done, I’m burnt-out, I have other things to do besides think about slides, or it was a last minute task thrown at me.”
YOU CAN STOP THE CYCLE.
Fast-forward in my academic sharing time: A professor of mine wanted to call me out onto the carpet. He knew I had a habit of not reading the assignments and would pick on me in class to make me sweat because it’s fun to make students squirm.
Being the accommodating person that I am, I would walk right into it. It was a great weakness of mine.
One particular day I was exceptionally tired. I couldn’t play his game anymore and when called on I let out a little sigh and replied, “You know what? I have no idea, I didn’t read any of this.” It felt so liberating to say even though I hadn’t planned on saying it.
Even though it seemed like he was just being a jerk, he wanted me to admit where my weakness was. After I replied, my professor smirked back then called on someone else and left me alone for the rest of the semester.
KNOWING YOUR WEAKNESS IS AS IMPORTANT AS PLAYING YOUR STRENGTHS.
The moral here isn’t for you to blow off your work. If you know that this is something you dread, something your horrible at, and something you consistently put little to no effort into then it’s time to be honest to everyone.
Admitting your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths. There’s a time to “fake it ’til you make it” and a time to be brutally honest with yourself and others about what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Your presentations will benefit from this, hell, your whole life will benefit from it.
If this means you don’t create slides for your big talk, be true to that. Let your boss know that the way you present doesn’t fit the standard mould but be sure you demonstrate that.
There is nothing wrong with breaking rules. The only safety net you need is the confidence that you know what you’re taking about and maybe a great pair of shoes that makes you feel like a million bucks on stage. But seriously, that’s it.
Be a total badass and know what you suck at and admit it. Besides, when it comes to slides I’m positive your boss doesn’t like looking at a standard business slide deck anyway.
Have a great story about transforming a weakness into a strength? I’d love for you to tell me about it in the comments section! If you found this post helpful, I’d be incredibly grateful if you’d share it with someone that you think would benefit from it.