Presenters, don’t make promises you can’t keep

September 20, 2018 Rosemary

Presenters, don’t make promises you can’t keep

Presenters, don’t make promises you can’t keep

An audience spends the first few minutes deciding whether to trust you as a presenter or not.

Be sure to win that trust. You aren’t entitled to it; you must earn it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It will erode audience trust in a moment, and you’ll have to work very hard to win it back.

Every time I assess a presenter, whether they are in a training, chairing, speaking or facilitating role, I look for how they connect with their audience first up. I can predict from those first few moments, how the whole session will go.

If they win trust, if people take to them, if they draw people in, the session is bound to be a success. If in those first few moments they make the mistake of making promises they can’t keep, it’s not likely to go well, or if it does, it’s against all odds.

These are some of the promises that presenters make in the first few moments that are a mistake:

“This is not about me; it’s all about you.”

Don’t tell the audience it’s about them if it’s not. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard presenters say this, and then make it all about themselves. They bounce up to the mic, promise that they are going to engage the audience, that they want to hear their experiences and that they are going to make it interactive. They might even ask one question of the audience.

Then, up goes the PowerPoint, and the presentation starts, only to end at exactly the allotted time (or just after) without engaging the audience or finding out their story.

“This is going to be fun.”

I believe this is a dangerous promise and one that is very hard to keep. Firstly, something that is fun for one person isn’t fun for another. We’ve all been in an audience where this has been promised, and often, these are the sessions that were least fun.

My take is that you don’t need to make a session fun. You need to make it worthwhile, engaging and connected. You need people to leave the room saying, “That was seriously worthwhile”, rather than, “That was seriously fun.”

Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say “Hey, I want to go to a fun work event.” They say, “I want this event to be great”, and great can mean different things to different people.

“I want to be sure that I meet your needs and offer what you’ve come here to do.”

If you haven’t checked what they need, you’re unlikely to be able to meet their needs. Different settings call for different methods of finding out what people want. Usually, you will have done the research beforehand, but it’s always useful to find out more once you are in the room. Don’t make what I call the ‘facilitator’s greatest mistake’, which is to not check in. So many things will go wrong if you haven’t found out who is in the room and why they are there. Even worse is checking in, finding out what they need, and then giving them something completely different.


Make sure your process is good and suitable for the outcomes you are trying to achieve; an irritating presentation style will be sure to alienate people. Do what is right for the people in the room by balancing your needs as the presenter, the needs of the audience, and the need to reach the right outcomes.

Win trust early and your job will be much easier.

Spend a little time considering what you are promising and how you are keeping those promises, every time you are in front of an audience. Don’t break the promises you make to your audience; they won’t forgive you, and rightly so. Their time is precious, and you want to help them to spend it well.

Winning trust early, keeping your promises and facilitating the right outcomes will have you well on your way to creating a Triple Win. 

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

, , ,