Presenting 101: Is there an elephant in the room?

When it comes to presenting to a group, there’s one major step that most presenters miss.

Many leaders will  spend an hour presenting a new strategy, explaining how exciting and challenging it’s going to be, when their audience is either tired because they’ve heard it all before or are concerned about how this is going to affect them. The one thing they are not is excited.  The presenter has failed to address the elephant in the room and missed the opportunity to connect to what the audience is really thinking or feeling.

Recently, I went to my daughter’s school for an information evening. Midway through the night, a “parenting expert” came on stage and every parent in the room rolled their eyes. Sensing everyone’s displeasure, the expert said, “You’re probably thinking ‘not another parenting expert, will I ever get home?’ The guilty audience burst out laughing. She then took it a step further saying, “As a parent myself, I’ve often felt this too. We all know that parenting is the toughest job on earth. It  was once said: ‘You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.’ So I’m here to share some tips with you that we, as parents, can all use on days when patience is in short supply. As parents of teenagers you will have lots of these days.”

Not only did she address the elephant, she invited it into the room with us and used it to her advantage to connect with her audience.

It takes courage to address the elephant in the room and as Ellen Wittlinger author & novelist said ‘ When there’s an elephant in the room you can’t just pretend it’s not there and just discuss the ants’.

Sadly this is a step most presenters miss.



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  • Lynda

    I regularly read your emails and blog and would just like to say a big thank you. While I’m presenting I often remember tidbits of information I’ve garnered from you and it all goes to help make me a better presenter. Thanks 🙂

    • Gabrielle Dolan

      Thanks Lynda for taking the time to provide such lovely feedback.
      We are pleased you find our insights of value.

      Gabrielle and Yamini

  • Stephen Manallack

    Great advice, thanks. Not always easy to know what the elephant is though – any suggestions?

    • Yamini Naidu

      Hi Stephen
      There is a great recent example of addressing the elephant in the room, this one from a recent T V show ‘Can of worms’. The pregnant host Chrissie Swan had been photographed smoking a cigarette in her car. This according to popular press is practically a hanging offence if you are in the family way. So how did Chrissie Swan handle it in the first live episode that followed a few days after this incident? ‘ ‘She got in and addressed it head on, used it as an intro the first ‘worm’ of the evening and then moved on. It could not have been handled better’, says journalist Melinda Houston.
      Chrissie Swan even said “We start with a story from this week’s headlines and this week the story is me! We thought it would be weird if we didn’t address the elephant in the room’.
      So the elephant in the room could be what the audience is thinking (Oh no not another presetnation for example) or could be something they are thinking about you the presenter that needs to be addressed first.

  • Gabrielle Dolan


    You can help spot those elephants by asking yourself some questions about the audience and trying to answer them honestly even if the truth hurts. Such as..

    Do they even want to be there?
    What will be their likely concerns?
    Are they just waiting for you to finish so they can go to lunch or go home?

    Just try to put yourself in their shoes as much as possible.


  • Peter

    Great quick read to remind me of this – there are elephants everywhere.

  • Margaret Moon

    Hi Yamini
    Great to see that your business is still going strongly. I loved this post and the image is perfect. I always enjoyed our liaison during the old ElNet days.
    Warm regards
    Margaret Moon

    • Yamini Naidu

      Many thanks for your lovely feedback, and your on going support. Hope that all is well with you, ElNet and look forward to catching up when you are in Melbourne.
      Best wishes

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