How to Avoid Confusing Your Audience with Mixed Messages

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I came across this sign on my drive to work earlier this week. The arrow points to the right, but the words are upside down, which means the arrow should be pointing to the left. I think.

And there’s the rub.

Because what I saw—the arrow—didn’t match the words. Mixed message. I had to choose. Go right, or go left? I had to stop and think about it.

And that’s what happens in presentations.

If we tell our audience one thing, but show them another, we force our audience to choose.

We add stress to their lives and confusion to their experience.

I don’t know about you, but stressful choices don’t usually enhance my experience as an audience member.

Here’s how this frequently plays out in a presentation:

The presenter is trying to convince you with his or her words to do something, to take an action, agree with a premise, buy an item. But the presenter looks and sounds nervous. Now, at an intellectual level, you can probably figure out that the nerves come from stage fright. But at an emotional level, you will feel the presenter’s nervousness. That will make you feel uncomfortable.

It will also undermine your confidence in the presenter. After all, if she looks nervous, it’s hard to buy what she’s selling—whether that’s an idea, a product, or a service—because she doesn’t appear confident.

When we show our audience one thing but tell them another, we create stress and force audience members to choose. That never works out in the presenter’s favor.

Give your audience clean, simple, consistent directions.

When it came to that one-way street, I stopped (I didn’t act like the sign wanted me to). And then I decided to skip the street altogether. I took another route.

As a presenter, you can’t make the audience feel comfortable unless you look comfortable. You can’t make the audience feel confident in following you unless you sound confident.

And I’m not even talking about PowerPoint.

You are the most important visual in your presentation.  If you don’t look like your message, the audience will probably take away a different message than you intended to send.

The audience won’t take the action you want.

The audience won’t follow your lead.

The audience won’t hear what you have to say because the audience already “heard” what it saw from you.

Don’t confuse your audience.

And if your nervousness is getting in the way of your impact, then come on over and join my new, on-line course, Move From Shake to Shine.

It’s designed to help you look comfortable, confident, and in control in front of any audience. And unlike driving down a one-way street, this is designed to take you exactly where you want to go.

Looking confident, comfortable, and in control in front of the room changes everything—including the arc and impact of your career!

If you aren’t comfortable in presentations or speeches, there’s only thing to do: learn how to get comfortable. Once you do that, you put your career on a one-way street to the top of your field.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Gerry Sandusky –


Published On: 24th Apr 2017

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