Presenting naked is about expressing a naturalness in delivery that brings more of your own unique personality to your presentations in a way that amplifies your message. There are many components to an effective, naked presentation, but one simple way to think about it is in terms of what I call The Three Cs : Connection, Contribution, and Change.
• Connection. To make an impact and to make a difference, we have to make a solid connection with others in the room. Where there is no connection, there can be no contribution. If we can make a solid and lasting connection with others, then we create the space for our contribution to be heard and take root. Connection amplifies the experience for both the audience and the speaker. Instead of 1+1=2 with a one-way didactic approach, it's now 1+1=137 (or a million, etc.).
• Contribution. Some people think that a presentation or an invitation to speak is a burden, or at best and obligation that can’t be avoided. This is the wrong attitude. Instead, think of presentation as a welcomed opportunity to make a difference. Every presentation or speech is a chance to make a contribution. We all live for the opportunity to contribute, it’s what makes us human. A contribution is never about us—it’s always about them. We show respect for them by being well prepared. We show we care by sharing a bit of ourselves and a small part of our own humanity. Do not allow yourself to get bogged down in a haze of self-doubt and worry about whether or not you are good enough. To win or to lose is not the point. Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conductor and presenter extraordinaire Benjamin Zander says something similar while encouraging one of his talented students: "We are about contribution. That’s what our job is. It’s not about impressing people. It’s not about getting the next job. It’s about contributing something.” We can apply this spirit to the art of presentation as well.
• Change. Through contribution we make a difference—we make a difference because we change things. Sometimes the change is big, and sometimes the change is virtually imperceptible, but it’s real. As a result of our contribution the audience may have gained new knowledge or a skill, or a fresh perspective—or they were inspired to learn more. Because of our talk, presentation, or lesson, there was a change. This positive change resulted from an honest, transparent contribution in the moment. These tiny contributions in the aggregate are what keeps humanity moving forward.
Create art and make change
I've always said that presentation is more art than science. So what is art? In a recent interview with David Siteman Garland, Seth Godin said this about art in the context of work. "Art," says Seth Godin, "is a generous action—it's when a human connects to another human and makes a change." The work that we do could be art, but if we are just following the rules, playing it safe, and sort of working-by-the-numbers (as in paint-by-the-numbers) then the work lacks connection and difference, and therefore lacks art. The best presentations are art in a sense because the best presenters necessarily connect in the spirit of contribution and generosity and help people make a change. The worst presentations or speeches are the usual ones, the ones that are perfunctory, routine, safe, and utterly forgettable. No one ever got fired for doing the expected and the safe, at least they did not in the old world. But it's a new world now. And the professionals who are remarkable and who want to make a difference — teachers, doctors, engineers, aid workers, and business people of all types — are the ones who create art. Today, more than ever, there are opportunities to speak in front of others to make a connection and contribute to lasting change—that is, to create art.
Connections make all the difference
Everyone can make a difference and make art, no matter the profession. Teachers obviously, but it applies to the waitress at your favorite local diner as well, the waitress who remembers your name and makes you feel better about your day every time you go there.
These slides feature the same Seth Godin quote that I have used in presentations recently. The text stays the same as different professions come in one after another to make the point that it does not matter what job you have, the little human-to-human connections are what can make all the difference in the world.