Stop presenting… just stop


Brutal presentations. They happen to the best of us. Long, boring, ineffective. “Please, please, let this be over” kind of meetings, conversations and speeches.

I’ve sat through some brutal presentations.

If I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that I’ve delivered some brutal presentations. You too, maybe?

But I’ve learned, and grown (I hope)… and stopped presenting.

I haven’t stopped speaking or leading or facilitating. I love that part of my work. Absolutely love.

But I’ve stopped presenting. After years and years of trying to figure out just the right slides, just the right graphs and just the right messaging to create a “wow” presentation, I decided to stop.

Here’s what I do instead…

Tell stories

Whether it’s a keynote speech, a staff meeting or a sales presentation (especially if it’s a sales presentation), the audience wants to hear a story. Why does this thing matter? How did it change someone life or work? Was there more profit, joy, success?  That’s what we really want to know.

When I coach clients around the topic of presentation skills, I ask them to pretend that I’m their ideal potential customer/audience and give me their best pitch/speech about why we should work together or why I should buy. They launch into it, and about 2 minutes in, I find myself throwing up the time-out sign, or if I think I can get away with some humor, I’ll take out my phone and send them a text that says, “Hi. I’m bored. I’m sitting through a brutal presentation. How’s your day?”

I’m trying to make the point that they’ve lost me. That I couldn’t care less about their product, service, benefits, idea, etc.

Why? Because I’m not engaged (yet). I’m not interested, curious, amused, delighted or intrigued.

Want to help me get there? Tell me a story…

Tell me about the time this product/service/idea dramatically improved something. Tell me the before and after.  Give me a little drama, suspense, a villain, a hero and a happy ending.

And then I’m listening. I’m interested, curious, amused, delighted and intrigued. I want to hear the rest. I’m keeping my phone on silent.
Ask questions

When I find myself wanting to convince others – to buy, to listen, to care, to change, to do something – I try to catch myself and quickly take a U-turn (you-turn).

I know that I’m not going to get very far if I focus on what I want (even if what I want is very very good for the person/audience). It has to be about what they want.

And how can I know what they want? Simple – ask.

Simple, but not necessarily easy.

I’m not sure of which questions will get them to open up. And even if they do, how can I prepare a presentation, or a talk or a meeting with a bunch of unknowns? What if they say X? Or Y? Or Z? What then?

See… not so easy.

But necessary.

We have to get more comfortable with being in the moment, with having real conversations without a packaged or fully-prepared answer – whether that’s with an audience of 1 or an audience of 1,000. We have to prepare what we do know (the story of our company, our history, our vision, our product/service/capabilities, our ideas) so well, so that we can have license to play with the things that we don’t know so well.

Genuine curious questions. Dancing in the moment. Being real.

It’s not about convincing. It’s about caring. 

So now we’ve told some stories. We’ve asked some good questions. We’re having a conversation!

Back to the dancing in the moment. We have to ask ourselves if we’re truly there with the audience? Is there a real felt connection? If there is, we’ll know it. If there isn’t, we’ll know it.

Is there nodding? Note taking? Smiling?

Can they sense how much we relate to what they’re saying/thinking/feeling? Can we see the “ah yes, he/she gets me” thought bubble over their heads?

If so, we’re ready to close…

Offer options

We all like to choose. People don’t want to be sold to, preached to or convinced of anything. We want to choose our own next steps.

So let’s offer some options. Based on the “conversation” (even if standing on a stage or at the front of a room) we just had, think about what options might make sense for the audience? What choices can we offer?

A. They can choose to stay the same. Do nothing. Buy nothing. Change nothing. Let’s let that to be ok. If it’s not a fit, or not a fit right now, it really is ok.

B. They can choose to take a small step with us, by implementing something we’ve suggested or offered.

C. They can choose to take a larger step with us.

D. They can ask more questions and continue the conversation.

All options are valid. The audience must feel complete freedom to choose.

And when they have that freedom, they’ll often choose you. To work with you. To listen to you. To buy from you. To continue to develop a relationship with you.

That’s what naturally happens at the end of a real conversation.

So let’s stop presenting. Instead, let’s tell stories, ask questions, connect and offer options.

Featured On

featured on tv


Irina has a gift that few have – the ability to truly listen. She has an innate ability to respond to a client’s needs almost imperceptibly. She could tell immediately what kind of mood I was in, where my mind was and what I wanted and needed to focus on.
C.S., Writer
I had no idea how much I would benefit from coaching with Irina. Not only has my business improved, but I am a better husband, father and happier man, as a result of our work together. Her wisdom, support and consistent pushing in the right direction gave me exactly what I needed to reach my goals and create more balance, confidence and success. This is one of the best investments I have ever made. The ROI far exceeded my expectations!
R.F., Management Consultant
Irina is a soul-stirrer. She uses her coaching talents to motivate, inspire and support. She is genuine and generous – pure love. Cannot thank her enough…
A.W., Television News Anchor
Irina has truly helped me change my perspective and my approach to work and life. I have come to fully embrace the reality that I am the captain of my own ship and am now confidently charting a positive course forward. I really appreciated Irina’s warm, supportive, yet honest and assertive approach. I felt I was in very good hands throughout my time with her, and was able to quickly establish a deep level of trust with her. I highly recommend her as a coach!
T.D., Administration Director
Irina completely changed my life. She sets such high expectations for her clients that you won’t want to let her – or yourself – down. She opened me up to new perspectives, challenged me, and held me accountable until I started to take steps to live more intentionally. Thanks to Irina, I have gained such momentum that I will never stop!
J.L., Administrator
Irina’s upbeat personality is contagious. She’s smart and creative with her coaching, and expertly moves from playful to serious, with great results.
L.W., Pharmaceutical Sales Director
I’m finally understanding what I want and going after it! I feel empowered and productive in a way that I haven’t for a really long time. Thank you!!!
K.G., Healthcare executive
The skills I learned with Irina will be invaluable in nearly all aspects of my life, and I wish I had thought to engage in the process before things got out of control. Bottom line: no matter where you are or what’s going on, working with Irina will help you be more deliberate and empower you with the skills of resiliency, compassion and honesty you’ll need when life throws you for a loop.
I.M., Director & VP, Higher Education
More balance, more confidence, more financial success and better relationships… I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you!
J.T., VP of Financial Services Firm