There are issues with which we are more comfortable than others. For example, many people have a real difficulty in speaking well of themselves or of what they have accomplished. It is indeed a widespread taboo that one should not boast about oneself, to avoid being considered pretentious. And yet, there are many who simply manage to talk about themselves without any pretension. And above all, in order to carry your project and defend your ideas, you have no choice; you must put yourself forward.
The problem comes from the perspective you have on the topic of your presentation. A point of view is not restricted to having an opinion. It is mostly a particular perception, a different way of seeing things. And this ability to put into perspective, to share a way of seeing or thinking is often the hallmark of great speakers. The problem, when talking about ourselves or about something we have created, is precisely the fact that we have no perspective since we are both the observed and the observer. So, how can you put yourself forward without appearing pretentious? How can you promote your ideas without seeming self-righteous?
There is a simple approach to adopt that will allow you to step back; we call it ‘the guide position.’ You will see that there are many benefits to adopting this kind of approach. First, the guide is not responsible for the state or the quality of what he shows us. He is simply the first spectator and thanks to his knowledge, he leads us and lends his view on the object of the visit. And the magic works: the tapestry that appeared ordinary becomes a witness of the century and sculpture that we didn’t like by coming to life as soon as we know its history. Here is the first responsibility of the speaker: to guide us in a subject, where he is usually the best expert, and to offer us his views. When he speaks, he is no longer responsible for the subject itself but rather its appropriation by those who listen. This type of positioning allowed Steve Jobs to use superlatives on his creations without appearing pretentious. He behaved like a guide who had just discovered an extraordinary object and decided to reveal it to others.
The analogy of the guide is powerful. Make the most of your holidays by taking a guided tour and you’ll collect a mass of good advice to give more depth to your presentations. Guides spend a lot of time embellishing their remarks with anecdotes, metaphors and by putting things into perspective. The guide goes through the rooms of the castle, but is always careful to give us an overall picture of the work. Visiting the King’s chamber loses its meaning if we haven’t seen the antechamber and vestibule beforehand.
Similarly, a presentation loses its meaning when a speaker is contented to just comment his slides. On the contrary, his role is to develop cross-functional remarks on the whole presentation, the slides being only steps in his demonstration. When you take the floor to defend your ideas, your role is not to glamorize your ideas or show that you have worked hard, but to guide those who came to listen, and offer them your views and invite them to follow you.