We tend to think a lot about nerves when it comes to presentations. We think about people being scared to take the stage or share their ideas. But what’s at the other end of that spectrum? What about speakers who crave the spotlight? Who have an unhealthy ego because of it? Studies show, presenting in front of an audience can lead to power-tripping.
Let’s take a look at how to keep your ego in check when it comes to presenting.
Why We Love Being Up Front
Judith E. Glaser is an expert in conversational intelligence. She typically works with executives. What she’s uncovered in her research is that they talk much more than they listen. She says, “There is a biological explanation for this: When we express ourselves, our bodies release a higher level of reward hormones, and we feel great. The more we talk, the better we feel.”
And research from Harvard University backs her up. They conducted brain scans during conversation and found that talking about yourself has the same effect on your brain that eating good food, taking drugs, or having sex might. So it makes sense that some speakers would crave the kind of attention they get from being in front of an audience. But is there anything wrong with this? Why does it matter if we enjoy or feel confident talking about ourselves?
The Problem With Power-Tripping
While it’s okay to feel confident when you speak (and we sure hope you do), it’s not okay to be arrogant. Arrogance can actually put a barrier between you and your audience. No one wants to spend much time in the company of someone who is arrogant. Let alone listen to him or her give a presentation. But how do you know if you are being arrogant when you talk?
Carey Lohrenz is one of the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilots in the US Navy and author of the book Fearless Leadership. She gives a few guidelines for recognizing arrogance. She says arrogant people:
- are manipulative.
- always believe they are ‘right’.
- fear competition.
- take credit for the experiences and accomplishments of others.
- blame others for failure.
- put themselves and their personal agendas ahead of organizational objectives and the common good.
If you notice any of these arrogance markers in yourself, use the tips below to help keep your ego in check.
How to Avoid It
So we know why presenting might feed our egos and why that’s a problem. But how do we keep from power-tripping? I propose 2 solutions.
Get & Stay Curious: This keeps you from settling into the role of the expert. If you remind yourself that there are still things you don’t know, it keeps you open to new insights and connections. If you are developing a presentation that you already know a lot about, step outside of yourself. Think about how others might present the same information.
Elevate the Audience: In speaking, there is an assumed hierarchy which can feed a speaker’s ego. It’s this: the speaker matters more than the audience. The speaker has come to bestow upon the lowly audience his or her gracious gift of knowledge. Ugh. Can we get rid of this damaging hierarchy? Instead of seeing the audience as subordinates, see them as the very people who offer you the opportunity to share. Remind yourself that your presentation is nothing without them. They are giving you their time and attention. And everything you do and say in your presentation should honor that.
If you think you might be power-tripping on your presentation, remember you could be harming your presentation rather than helping it. And take steps to bring your ego back into balance so that you can authentically connect with your audience.
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