At the beginning of term, a ceramics teacher divided his students into two groups, Group A and Group B. To Group A he said:

“I want you to make as many pots as possible. At the end of the term I’ll grade you on the weight of your pots.”

To Group B he said: “I want you to make the best pot possible. At the end of the term I’ll grade you on the quality of your pot.”

The students worked away at their assigned task – Group A churning out pot after pot, while Group B concentrated on endlessly perfecting one pot.

At the end of term, the ceramics teacher graded all his students on the quality of the pots they produced. And all the best quality pots came from Group A students!

[This story comes from the book “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland].

The lesson for presenters

The lesson for us as presenters is to repeat your content multiple times. It’s only when you repeat your content multiple times that you get really good at it.

When you repeat your content multiple times here’s what you’ll find:

  1. You’ll see which pieces of your presentation audiences most relate to – the “lean in” moments and you can then make more of those in your presentation (credit to Terry Williams for the “lean in” moments phrase).
  2. You’ll see the pieces during which your audience seem to glaze over. Then you could either delete these from your presentation or put serious effort into improving them.
  3. Each time you’re delivering your presentation live, you’ll use a slightly different form of words and you’ll find one form that is particularly effective. Something happens in the space between us and the audience that we find just the right way of saying it.
  4. Your content will form such a well-worn path in your mind that you will no longer have to think about what you’re saying and instead can focus whole-heartedly on connecting with your audience.

So why don’t more people repeat their content?

1. Fear of getting stale

Some people don’t like repeating content because it feels stale to them and they want to do something fresh, new and exciting to them. This is not serving the audience – it’s all about the presenter. They also believe that they won’t be able to deliver the information with energy if the information is not fresh to them.

Early in my speaking career, an experienced professional speaker said “Say it differently every time.” This mantra stops you from being attached to saying it the same way every time, it stops you from getting stale by always travelling the same well-worn groove, and it invites you to play with different ways of saying the same thing – which means you may discover new, and even better ways of saying it.

2. Fear of the audience being bored

Some people are worried that there will be people who will have been in the audience before and so who will be bored by hearing the same content. My experience here is:

  1. If your content is valuable, those people in our audience will not be bored.
  2. In fact, these people often love hearing the content again. Just like you enjoy watching a good movie, or reading a good book because of the nuances you receive the second time round.

3. Fear of being out-dated

Some people think their content has to be totally up-to-date. This may be the case in some industries eg: if you’re talking about trends in the stockmarket, you’ve got a point. But for most presentations, we don’t have to have the absolute latest information.

If you are constantly delivering material which is new to you, you will always be in the land of uncertainty – how does this presentation flow, how will the audience relate to this piece, will this work? If you’re in this place, you are in your head concerned about your content, and you will never have the experience of being able to let go of thinking about your content and connecting with your audience.

It’s when you repeat your content, that you start becoming a professional presenter.

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