Nothing stops a public figure’s momentum dead in its tracks quicker than being called out for misleading or flat-out lying to the public. In a professional setting, credibility will go right down the drain when our honesty and integrity are put into question.
Like our scolding parents always told us, lying is wrong, right?
So as far as why you shouldn’t lie to or mislead your audience, it’s pretty simple. Not only is it morally incorrect, it’s not worth the risk.
The how to be honest is a bit more subjective. You hear phrases like, “put the right ‘spin’ on that information,” that hint at manipulation, but learning how to be honest and remain likable is all about providing context.
Let’s look at Robin Hood as a good example of providing context.
Robin Hood is an outlaw and a thief who robs unsuspecting victims in the woods.
When you state just this aspect of the situation this Robin Hood character doesn’t sound like such a great guy, but when you give the situation a bit of context and perspective, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Robin Hood is an outlaw and a thief who robs unsuspecting victims in the woods, but they are always members of the exploitative monarchy and Robin Hood gives all of his bounty back to the starved, impoverished poor. He’s also a pretty snappy dresser.
Neither statement was a lie, but the second statement framed a compromising fact with the necessary, and it is the true context that allows the audience to understand Robin Hood’s motives and actions.
This lesson can be applied to any presentation in which you’re obligated to present information that your audience may interpret negatively. For instance, say you’re presenting a disappointing quarterly report. There’s nothing you can do short of flipping the line graph upside down and outright fudging the numbers to make it look positive. Instead of going into the presentation and stating, “revenue is down 40% and 10% of our clients left.”
Instead, admit the negatives, but put them in some perspective. Sure, the depleted revenue is a disappointing outcome, but this is a very key transition period for the company. We went through a great deal of change this quarter, and a few bumps in the road should be expected.
While admitting the bleak negatives in a presentation can be difficult, it’s important to show your confidence levels to your audience. Remain positive and self-assured. If you act defeated by the awful quarterly report, the audience will take the news all the harder.
To circle back to the most important aspect of honesty, straightforwardness and owning up to the hard-to-face facts will always earn you the respect of your audience and colleagues. Approach and embrace this aspect of presenting to them head on and you’ll be all the better for it.