Big Presentations in Small Rooms book cover

Big Presentations in Small Rooms

helping ordinary people communicate with extraordinary effectiveness






Another quarter went in the jar. 

Kent kept a roll of quarters with him whenever he came to speech class.

Kent knew his struggle, and he knew it was going to cost him.

Fortunately, the experience didn’t prevent him from pursuing a life that involved hundreds of presentations.  Thirty years later, he is still using his skills to help people lead more fulfilling lives.

You know your goal. You understand your audience. You have well-organized content and a well-practiced delivery. You want to avoid mistakes and make a good impression.

Interestingly, research is revealing that presentation perfection is overrated when considering effectiveness.  Perhaps those quarters were not as important as we thought at the time.


Your experience probably proves this to be true.  When listening to a speaker who has a great voice and a perfect delivery (in terms of no umms, no awkward pauses, no weird pronunciations), what happens to your attention?

Does it fade?  Do you have to fight to stay focused?

I do.

Presentation perfection can be ineffective because it is so easy to tune out.

This balance is a challenging concept to address.

Imperfections can be overdone. 

Some imperfections are distracting to some and engaging to others. 

Many public speakers use a verbal pause best described as a passionate stutter.  They stutter for a few seconds as they try to think of what to say next.  It is meant to sound like they are excited.  In reality, they are waiting for the next thought to arrive. For some listeners, this works.  It can be effective.  For others, it is distracting.

Use wisdom when deciding which imperfections to keep and which to delete.

Presentation Perfection puts person to sleep
Presentation Perfection can put an audience to sleep, Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash


I attend a large church in North Texas.  Each weekend, there are leaders on stage.  They are seen by thousands of people.  Some of these leaders have been on stage for years.  And none of them are perfect.  They each have their quirks and commonly used phrases.  Those things become a powerful part of the organization’s brand.  There is an authenticity revealed in the imperfections. 

Part of the organizational brand is that they are real people seeking God in real life.  It is not a show.  It is a journey we are taking together.  Presentation perfection would undermine the brand.

As you consider your personality, your quirks, your unique strengths and weaknesses, ask whether these can be used to build your brand.  Somethings are worth keeping.  However, you should not use this as an excuse to refuse improvements. 

You want to improve continually—in ways that support the brand.  You want to engage the audience with authenticity.  Your goal is to communicate a believable desire to provide services and meet needs. 

If used wisely, the imperfections can help.  If long-time listeners do not have anything to tease you about, that might be a bad thing.  That might be a sign that your perfection is making it too easy for people to ignore you.  Presentation perfection can be boring. 

Benjamin Zander has a personal brand marked by joyful passion. His articulation is not perfect, but you don’t notice because he is having so much fun. His love for classical music is contagious.

Presentation Perfection: Conductor Benjamin Zander
Benjamin Zander has a powerful personal brand, Photo: Andrew Heavens/TED

However, some imperfections can distract from your message.  Wisdom is needed to know what to embrace and what to repair.

When I recorded the audiobook of Big Presentations in Small rooms, I became aware of the weird way I pronounce words that begin in “thr.”  When I say three, it sounds like “thuhdreee.”  When I considered whether this was a quirky thing that I could embrace, I realized it was not. 

I needed to change it. I had to relearn a word I have been mispronouncing for almost 50 years.  It was not easy.  I am still working on it.  But it is a change worth making.  The mispronunciation is an unhelpful distraction.  It doesn’t help my brand.

For a decade, I delivered weekly presentations to kids aged ten and younger.  One year at a Christmas party, some friends performed a spoof of those presentations.  They highlighted the imperfections and oft-repeated statements that made those presentations uniquely me. 

They understood the personal brand and were able to recreate it!  It was funny and a little embarrassing.  It was also meaningful because some of those things were purposeful.  I was pleased that they “stuck” enough to be the subject of parody.


When delivering presentations, the goal is well-prepared authenticity.  The audience enjoys listening to a believable character tell a compelling story.  They can consider influential facts and reasonings—not because the presenter is slick, but because he is knowledgeable and trustworthy.

As you review your presentations, give careful considerations to the imperfections.  Fix the distractions and embrace the endearing quirks.  This ability might require feedback from those who listen well and have a desire to help.  Presentation perfection is more about effectiveness than articulation and gestures.

Jar of Coins: Presentation Perfection saves quarters.
Avoid the ummms and save your quarters, photo by

Keep learning.  Keep growing.  Keep improving.  But refuse to lose your identity in the process.  Honor your personal brand.  And you might save some quarters along the way!

Want to hear more? Check out the podcast!

Want to read more? Check out the book!

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