Teachers love to use the icebreaker game of “Two Truths and a Lie” when introducing themselves in a group.  They come up with three interesting things about their past and share them, and the other teachers listen and try to pick out the lie.  Well, most of the time they figured out mine…  yes, I actually owned a 27ft sailboat which I frequently grounded, very sad. 

So many people think certain aspects of their presentation will make it more effective. But there are a few myths going around… see if you can guess which one of these is true.

Myth or Truth?

  1. Percentages make information easier to understand.
  2. Talk to one person at a time, holding your focus for several seconds.
  3. You can never over-prepare for your presentation.
  4. Logic is more influential than emotion. 

So what is it about these seemingly great pieces of advice that are actually myths?  How can this be? Well, advice is like a good bottle of wine.  Or is it??  What may have been true in one time is not in another.  For example, Sonoma Valley circa 2019, fabulous.  Drank plenty of it.  But wine from California in 2020?  Be wary.  The wildfires destroyed the growing season, and the winemakers openly admitted it was going to be a bad year for California wine.  As if a pandemic weren’t enough!  

So like any consumer of information, you must analyze “truth” for it’s validity.  Assumptions and logic can be misleading.


 #1: Percentages make information easier to understand.

Myth.  In her article “Are percentages confusing? 1000%,” Melissa Cantor warns that using percentages in presentations can be confusing to your audience, especially when percentages are greater than 100.  It is better to describe the value of a product in monetary savings than to say it lasts 125% longer. She said that “nearly a third of people given a choice between two bonus amounts, one stated as a dollar figure and another as a percentage, picked the smaller sum.”  They were unable to translate the evidence into proof.


#2: Talk to one person at a time, holding your focus for several seconds.

Truth!  The commonly held myth is that during your presentation it is better to scan the room and make eye contact with as many people as possible.  Instead, it is better to hold the gaze of one person at a time for a few moments and then switch to another, allowing your brain to more fully focus on your important message instead of constantly processing input from your eyes.  Allow yourself to focus on elegantly crafting your words and executing an amazing presentation.  


#3: You can never over-prepare for your presentation.

Myth. Actually, you can over-prepare.  If you were to write out and memorize your speech it would sound unnatural.  There is a vast difference between written and spoken communication.  It is better to know the substance of your message thoroughly, even if it doesn’t sound exactly the same each time.  Do prepare thoroughly, but don’t memorize or fill your mind with specific words or details.  


#4: Logic is more influential than emotion. 

“If logic were more influential than emotion, Martin Luther King Jr. would have stood in front of millions before the Washington Monument and told everyone he had a plan, not a dream.” -Patti Soldavini

Anyone can report facts and explain spreadsheets.  But if you can paint the picture of a problem, invite empathy and engage listeners to actually care about that problem, now you’ve really accomplished something.  Your presentation just went from dry to interesting, impersonal to personal.  Influencing your audience through storytelling inspires action.  As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted, counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  Numbers are important, evidence is important.  But all the numbers in the world don’t cause people to act until they are moved to action through something meaningful to them. “A good public speaker will take their audience on a journey.” – Emily Bartlett


We live in an age where it is hard to know which information is credible and which is incredibly false.  Be wise and stay positive, for you are the gatekeeper of your own mind.  Find the truth!

-Pamela Schwartz
Freelance PowerPoint Designer