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What Keeps You from Presenting Your Ideas at Work?


Taking a Risk, Putting Yourself Out There


by Kelly Vandever

The ability to communicate an idea clearly and relevantly to an audience isn’t the most important thing.

It’s important, particularly if you want your presentation to mean something.

But the most important thing, the first thing, is to have the courage to do your presentation.

Apprehension about Presenting

I love helping people give more effective business presentations.  And I’m good at it if I do say so myself!

Over the last five years, I’ve taught, coached, and encouraged hundreds of people on every aspect of better business presentations – from content to stories to interaction to slides and rehearsal.  But unless that individual person decides to take the risk and put themselves out there, all the best instruction in the world won’t help.

What Holds Back Employees from Presenting Their Ideas at Work?

Past Experience

Early in my military career, I believed the announcements proclaimed in public forums… if you have a suggestion on how we can save money, submit your idea.

There was even a special form and a documented process to follow — so it must be true!  Or so I thought.

Then, I saw my chance to contribute.  One of the civilians assigned to the command put in her retirement papers.  I’d always thought her position was superfluous so I put together a cogent argument about why her position should be eliminated (which would of course save money) and submitted the documentation according to procedure.  (Trust me when I tell you I had logic and reason on my side.)

My boss submitted the idea up the chain of command.  He didn’t seem to have an argument with my logic.

But for whatever reason, the commanding officer didn’t agree.

And I’m guessing he knew he’d lose the argument.

Rather than acting on the suggestion or forwarding up his chain of command, he asked my boss to ask me how we could make this suggestion go away.

I knew I was in the right.  But it wasn’t that important an issue to me, so I let the idea die.

What I didn’t realize at the time was a little something died in me too that day.  I started holding back.  Questioning myself.  Avoiding risks.  What other suggestions did I not make or implement all because I learned that lesson early on?  What else did that cost the organizations I worked for?  More than the one salary of that civilian employee I’m sure.

Don’t let past experiences color what could happen in the future.  Be brave.  Braver than I was.  Take the step and suggest your new idea.  More than ever, your employer wants and needs your ideas and your commitment to the work.  Take the leap of faith that this time, can be different.

Comfort with the Status Quo

Everyone else does it that way.  Why shouldn’t I?

I hear that a lot — particularly when it comes to PowerPoint slides.

And that’s fine if you never want to get noticed.  If you never want to stand out.  If you don’t want to make a difference.

But in a world where things change rapidly, don’t you want to be the one leading the way?  What could a little PowerPoint change hurt?  After all, research demonstrates that it’s more effective and memorable.  Take the leap away from the status quo before it’s ripped out from under you anyway!

No One Asked

If I had asked people what people wanted, they would have said faster horses.   – Henry Ford

Leaders in your organization don’t know everything.  There are things you know working closer to the reality and to the customers that they just don’t get.

Good bosses want to know what you have to say.  They’ll appreciate you having the courage to tell them what they don’t know.  They can’t fix something if they don’t know it’s broken.  Help them out and they will be grateful.

What keeps you from presenting your ideas at work?

What causes you to change your mind?  What holds you back from putting yourself out there?  Maybe we can help.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Steve Cohn
Steve Cohn

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Steve Cohn
Steve Cohn

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