Charlie Hawkins

Article Summary:

How to bring passion to your next presentation, to be more effective and memorable.

Bring Passion to Your Presentation

It’s time for your big presentation. Whether it is at a staff meeting, a client presentation or perhaps a larger arena, the pressure is on. You get busy preparing, making sure your facts are right, the logic is sound and a persuasive argument is made. You might also compose and tweak PowerPoint slides. You’re ready.

The big day arrives. About three minutes in the presentation, you realize that a few of your audience members are drifting. Some are doodling, others have blank stares. You speak a little louder to try and bring them in, pointing out the graph that illustrates your most compelling point. It doesn’t work, and even more people seem to be tuning out. What could be wrong?

It could be that you left your passion behind. When you show up with passion for a presentation, people pay attention. Showing how you care about your subject has the potential for elevating it to a new level of effectiveness. Being passionate means putting your personal imprint on a presentation, such that no one else could deliver it exactly the same way.

Even the most analytical (read: dry, boring) subjects can benefit from an injection of passion. What’s the impact of the numbers? Why do they trend up or down? How will a decision impact internal people or customers? Why should anyone care? (Hint: they certainly won’t care any more than you do, so show them how much you care.)

While coaching hundreds of MBA candidates at the University of Chicago over an 11-year period, I observed that the one element separating the great presenters from the merely good ones is passion. Of course, no self-respecting MBA would show up without spreadsheets, graphs and a ton of logical arguments to prove his or her case. Yet, those who dared to express their passionate feelings about their subject were consistently the most effective. Why? By revealing their passion, they made connections with people that simply did not happen in straightforward analytical presentations.

What are some the ways you can bring your passion to your presentations? First of all, get in touch with what really interests you about the subject – in what ways does the issue you are presenting impact you, and how might it impact your audience members? Don’t just present facts – think through implications. Don’t focus only on features and attributes – translate them to benefits. Even the most straightforward topic, dutifully supported with bullet points and graphs, has the potential for elevation to a more passionate level. As presenter, your job is to bring additional value by adding insights based on your experience. Ask “so what?” to every statement you make, and then answer it. It is in such answers that the key to passion lies. Relevant anecdotes and qualitative assessments are effective in adding dimension to quantitative data.

Being passionate in presentations is risky. It means putting yourself on the line, and stepping out of your comfort zone, perhaps being less than perfect. Most people prefer real than right. Most will take passion over perfection. Take the risk. People will begin to pay attention.

Charlie Hawkins draws from over 30 years of experience in corporations, small business, teaching and consulting to help organizations and people communicate more effectively. Charlie conducts workshops on effective meetings and presentations, and is in demand as a retreat facilitator and consultant. He is the author of “First Aid for Meetings” and “Turn on the Idea Machine,” available at

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