In an instant the need to communicate with power and impact can become the overriding force in your life and career.
- Suddenly you are called on to present regularly to the senior management team and even the thought of it becomes all consuming.
- You get promoted and find yourself having to motivate, inspire and enthuse others each time you speak.
- You’re a successful entrepreneur who has single-handedly built a great business and now find yourself in a very big pond where you struggle to communicate with impact.
At Mindful Presenter we see people every week who face similar challenges and what’s really interesting is that without exception the enemy is always the same and ironically so is the solution.
“I’m not good enough”
“Who am I to speak when everyone else is so much more highly qualified?”
“These guys are professionals and I’m just me”
“I feel like an imposter and I’ll soon be found out”
These are not only extremely unhelpful thoughts but they are also quite crippling and there are plenty more where these came from.
The reality is that if you know your subject, believe in your idea and are passionate about your message this is all debilitating self- talk which serves no useful purpose other than confine you to mediocrity.
The Presenters greatest enemy is also their greatest ally, it’s their mind.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
A belief is nothing more than a thought we have over and over again to the point where we end up believing it. It doesn’t make it true or right it just seems that way to us at the time.
Some of the most powerful things you can do to turn your enemy into your ally are:
1. Accept nerves as normal
“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” Mark Twain
Whether you like it, accept it or not, it really is entirely normal to be nervous while speaking in public. The intellectual understanding of that statement is of course no comfort when gripped by anxiety but accepting the truth is the first step to reducing the fear. Rather than thinking you are alone and in some way inferior to others see it for what it is. It is entirely normal and something you can learn to manage and dissolve.
Make sure you are crystal clear on what your message is, why it will benefit your audience and who your audience are. That means you have to do your homework, invest a great deal of time, thought and energy to ensure you know your topic and your message inside out. It also means putting yourself in your audience’s shoes, preparing for questions and shifting your focus completely to how you can help your audience rather than looking good yourself.
Don’t memorise your presentation but do practice it at every opportunity, in front of friends, family and even the dog. Practice your content, practice the way you deliver and express it vocally and practice the way you move too. Your hands, face, voice and entire body all have a role to play in the way you deliver your message so practice using them all.
Moments before you speak take a few slow, deep breaths through your nose, filling your belly. As you breathe out, say silently to yourself, “Relax.” Breathe in to the count of 5 and then slowly exhale until you’re ready for the next in- breath.
The starting point to delivering a presentation with impact is finding and valuing your own voice. Our voice is something we each use every day but most of us never really hear it for ourselves and generally we take the ability to speak for granted. That can mean that our voice operates a little like a thermostat with it’s own default setting and it stays at the setting all of the time unless and until we recognise it and stretch it.
When I have an important speech or presentation to give I spend hours walking around the block just saying whatever I have to say until it feels completely normal. I don’t read a script I just talk openly about my message and everything I have to say about it.
To stretch and challenge my own voice I often take some random paragraphs from one of my favourite books and read them out loud to myself. I start with my normal reading voice, then I read it loudly, then with a high level of passion, as though I’m angry or excited,etc.
6. Focus on your audience
If you spend every moment and every effort focusing on how you can help your audience rather than yourself everything changes. Far too many presenters craft and deliver their presentation with the sole objective of looking good and impressing their audience. It’s human nature of course for all of us to want to look good but when that becomes our prime focus it only serves to make us nervous and neglect our audience.
Ask yourself ‘ How can I make real difference to their professional or personal lives?’
Whatever you do don’t try to impress your audience with how much you know and how hard you’ve worked, keep it simple. Don’t use bullet points, don’t drown them in data and keep text on your slides to a minimum. Use compelling images, tell them short relevant stories. Pause every now and then to let your audience catch up with you and give yourself time to breathe and think.
8. Focus on your opening
For most presenters the first 60 seconds is often the hardest. Crafting a compelling opening to really get your audience’s attention and practising it over and over again until it becomes a part of you will get you off to a flying start.
9. They don’t see what you feel
You can take a great deal of comfort from the reality that you may feel really nervous giving a presentation but most audiences never see even half of what you’re feeling.
10. The big one
Whether it’s the quarterly review, project update or team brief find something in what you have to say that you really care about and focus on that. If you don’t care about anything and are only presenting it because ‘it’s my job’ do both yourself and your audience a favour and find a new job.
With focus, practice and passion you can be as good as you choose to be when it comes to presenting.
I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please feel free to share it through your preferred social media channels below and subscribe to our mailing list so you won’t miss any future posts.
If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com