There are three reasons you should say no:
- If you don’t know what you are talking about
If you don’t know what you are talking about you’ve got three options – find someone who does, go find out more or decline to offer to speak.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? And yet, this is a point that comes up more times than you’d think especially in my corporate training sessions. The thing is, that in companies especially, people are asked to speak because they are a certain level of seniority or they come from a particular department. Or even because they happened to be available on the day! Not necessarily because they are the best speaker. And not necessarily because they have all the knowledge.
This worries people. Understandably. If you really don’t know enough, then it is better to say no. But before you do, consider this
- do you know what the message is? Others might have more knowledge but are just not clear on the outcome or take away required. And you might have that clarity
- Maybe you don’t know as much as others but perhaps you are the best at explaining things and can connect better.
- Perhaps you have more credibility with the audience and are therefore just the right person to speak.
Before you ask someone else to speak, check this isn’t an easy way out for you and be honest with yourself if you are using this as an excuse/reason for staying in your comfort zone. If you are the right person, then use the preparation time to be clear on the message, to find out what you absolutely do need to know, to research the audience.
- If there is a better way of communicating the message
Presentations are not always the best way of communicating the message. And they are hugely expensive! Not just your time in preparing and then delivering. But if you have ten people in your audience it is all their time as well. If the message would be clearer in a memo or a circulated document or a discussion group or even one to one, then make that decision and say no.
- If the right people to hear the message aren’t there.
If the people who need to hear the message and take action on it are not going to be there, then presenting is a waste of time. An audience who might find the presentation interesting but of no relevance to them and who will get no benefit from listening to you, won’t fully engage and almost certainly will not be compelled to take action. And of course, you don’t get the chance to influence the very people you need to for the presentation to be worthwhile.
So what’s the reason you should go to the effort and time to deliver a presentation?
When you have something important to say that impacts on and is necessary for an audience to hear. When you are the very best person (regardless of nerves or desire to do it) to deliver this message. And when the human interest factor matches the main message – in other words, when only a human speaking to another human will do!