The Pitfalls of Enthusiasm

By Heather Baldwin

Would you consider yourself an energetic presenter? Most salespeople would say yes and consider it an asset – and in most cases they’d be right. But enthusiasm has a downside, according to Marian Woodall, author of Presentations That Get Results: 14 Reasons Yours May Not (Professional Business Communications, 1997). Unbounded enthusiasm, she says, often is served up alone – without an accompanying coherent message. Without that message, Woodall says, audiences will leave your presentation excited but empty. When the excitement fades, they’ll have nothing left to hold onto.

Consider, says Woodall, the case of one client who has so much enthusiasm he practically has to be restrained with ropes. He is so committed to his product and is such an energetic, exciting person that he almost explodes when he talks. He is also extremely knowledgeable about his product and industry. Sounds like a winning combination, right? Not exactly. His presentations, says Woodall, often include lots of content that is not organized and lots of enthusiasm that is not channeled. “He develops excitement, but his audience has no place to go with their excitement; it is not pointed to any particular purpose,” she explains. And they get a lot of information, but it isn’t focused to give them anything to take away to use.

Many motivational speakers fall into the same trap. Think about the last such speaker you heard. Can you remember anything from his or her presentation? Did you take anything away that you could apply to your daily life? In most cases, the answer is no. Sure, audiences leave feeling excited and inspired, but there isn’t a take-away message that can be applied toward positive change. That’s not how you want your audience to leave your sales presentation.

Keep in mind that enthusiasm is great, Woodall advises, but without the essentials of solid content and a clear purpose driving the presentation, all that enthusiasm will be for naught. The client mentioned above now sits down before each presentation and lays out a clear purpose – a focused single sentence he is moving the audience toward, she says. With his enthusiasm and a clear purpose, he now has a winning presentation.