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Overcoming Resistance to Great Presentation Techniques Part 2

In the second instalment of Troy Sander's article on overcoming resistance to great presentation techniques, he explores risk-taking when presenting in an organisation that works by defined protocols.


It takes courage to risk trying something new in an organization. It takes more courage to seek support for change directly from individuals, whether they are colleagues or more senior managers.

It will take more courage still to take risks when you feel like you're going it alone. I often found myself in just that position. To make it easier, I found it important to identify and seize opportunities to deliver improved presentations.

Informal presentation opportunities

The opportunities that carried the least risk were informal presentation opportunities. These are opportunities to give presentations outside of your normal job responsibilities, but where other people in your organization may attend.

For example, when I was the director of operations for a training organization, we had an informal meeting periodically where a different director each time would give a presentation about themselves and their organization. Sometimes there were slides (in the standard format, complete with bulleted text, of course), and sometimes there were no slides.

How to stand out

Lessig style

When it was my turn to brief, I decided to shake things up a bit and used the rapid-fire Lessig style of presentation I saw demonstrated by Dick Hardt in his Identity 2.0 presentation. Because of the informal setting, my presentation was a success—it was all 'wow' and no 'shock'.

It wasn't that I used the Lessig style. It was that the audience did not feel compelled to adhere to the organization's cultural norm of slide after slide after slide filled with bulleted text. The difference was refreshing, and I would have missed that success if did not identify and take advantage of informal opportunities to use improved presentation techniques.

Cliff Atkinson's technique

As another example, I used Cliff Atkinson's techniques when giving weekly briefings to new arrivals at my assigned military base. Because the setting was less formal, the audience was more open to an improved presentation technique and was less surprised later to see that technique employed in more formal briefings.

Although this particular setting was more formal than the previous example, I still had enough leeway to determine the presentation style I would use. Any time your presentations are not strictly monitored for style and format, take advantage of that leeway to make improvements.

I took advantage of leeway again when giving the Command portion of a town hall briefing about implementing a new accounting system. Because I was the Command representative, I set the style and format for my part of the presentation using a variety of good presentation techniques from many experts.

Don't coordinate slides in advance

The marked contrast between my part of the briefing and the rest highlighted the difference in effectiveness and made it easier to recommend improvements. I took a risk by not coordinating my slides in advance. If I had, it's likely that higher headquarters would have forced me to use the standard slide format and briefing style. When taking advantage of leeway, it's sometimes necessary to risk not coordinating your improved presentation style in advance.

Substituting for another presenter

Another great opportunity is when you have to 'pinch-hit' or substitute for another briefer. When the higher headquarters representative for the town hall briefings couldn't make a trip, I stepped in to pinch-hit.

I had been waiting for this opportunity and already had an improved presentation prepared. After practicing the delivery to make sure I had it down, I again risked not coordinating the new style in advance. The presentation was a hit!

I received positive feedback from audience members; with one stating that it was the best 'military' briefing he had seen in 30 years and another saying she thought I was speaking just to her. A senior leader from the Pentagon also praised the presentation.


The feedback was so positive that I briefed for the higher headquarters rep for the next four town hall events, and elements of the style I used were incorporated into future presentations given by others. None of that would have happened without identifying the opportunity and taking risk. As the United States Navy's Rear Admiral Grace Hopper once said,

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."

I'm not suggesting that you put your job at risk. At no time did I feel like the risks I was taking would result in anything worse than an informal reprimand. I am suggesting that you have the courage to try something new and uncomfortable, to be different, and to stand apart.


Overcome resistance to improved briefing techniques by:

  • Making subtle, deliberate, incremental improvements
  • Balancing positive 'wow' against negative 'shock'
  • Finding a champion or advocate to support you
  • Discussing the benefits of better presentation techniques
  • Demonstrating the difference between good and bad presentations
  • Identifying and seizing opportunities to use improved presentation techniques
  • Taking advantage of leeway in presentation styles and formats
  • Finding the courage to take risks when permission doesn't seem likely

I can't promise that you'll enjoy the same success I did. I can promise that you'll learn and grow as a presenter and a person.


Although I mentioned a few presentation resources that have influenced me over the years, I specifically did not cover the myriad online and print resources. I also did not discuss how I employed what I learned. To help you on your journey to better presentations, I recommend taking advantage of training and assistance from presentation experts like Maria Pantalone at Infinite Growth.


Troy Sanders

Troy Sanders is a 22-year military veteran experienced in public speaking, leading change, training, and financial management. He currently serves as a management consultant on a large-scale, financial ERP implementation.
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