If presenting at work or speaking in public is a source of anxiety for you then you are not alone. The very idea of sitting in on a business presentation makes great number of professionals uncomfortable too.
For some, the anticipation of presenting or attending a presentation is akin to the anxiety you feel just before calling your telecoms provider to tell them that your broadband doesn’t work.
Something inside you tells you it’s probably not going to be a great experience.
When it comes to presenting, we’ve all been there; in the audience furtively glancing at our watch as we stifle a yawn.
At Mindful Presenter we’ve made it our mission to change the world one presentation at a time. Presenting your ideas at work isn’t so daunting when you understand what’s really important.
Whether you’re pitching a product, presenting at a staff or board meeting or speaking at a conference, here are some tips you won’t hear from your typical public speaking coach. We believe these are some of the most important things you need to know about presenting today.
1. Don’t be yourself
I mean it.
If your’e at all uncomfortable with presenting and public speaking it’s likely that you will have heard these words, ‘You’ll be fine, just be yourself’. Whilst that sounds like healthy advice on the surface there is sometimes a greater force at play.
When some people are just being themselves, they can appear as boring.
As harsh as that sounds, at mindful presenter we believe that nobody was born boring; it’s something we learn along the way.
The paradox is, it’s often our discomfort which stops us from being our true selves. That person who is charismatic, creative and fun to be around can become a shadow when many of us are presenting.
We suggest that you don’t be yourself. Here’s another option, be your best self; the very best of who you are.
Remember that person?
It’s the 6 year old inside of you that was so excited on Christmas Eve all those years ago. You couldn’t wait to get to bed and sleep all night with one eye open desperate to get a glimpse of Santa.
It’s that person who felt that euphoria the moment their parent let go of their bike and they realised they were cycling on their very own.
It’s that person who was just told they passed their driving test or succeeded at an important job interview and suddenly felt unstoppable.
The mindful presenter tunes in to their best self when they are presenting. This means they call on all of the great and good they have within them to let their audience see who they really are.
How do they do that?
It’s called visualisation. They take themselves back in their mind to some of best and most powerful moments in their life. We all have many and if we tune back into them, the positive impact on our emotional state brings out the very best in us.
Try it and see for yourself.
2. Use PowerPoint
At Mindful Presenter we are tired of hearing coaches and trainers tell presenters to avoid using PowerPoint, Key note, Prezi or any other visual aids. We use PowerPoint in all our presentation training courses. Mindfully crafted they add enormous value to our delegates learning experience when used wisely, creatively and effectively.
Research suggests that 65 percent of the population are visual learners. It is said that, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. It’s also believed that visual aids in the classroom improve learning by up to 400 percent.
I don’t know how accurate those statistics are but even if the second two numbers were only half true it seems to us that you would be doing your audience a disservice not using some form of visual aid. I believe that the reason PowerPoint and its other chums have received such bad press for so long, is simply because they have been misused. Many presenters have mistakenly used PowerPoint and other visuals aids for decades. Many have done so largely for their own benefit rather than their audiences. In short, they’ve used it as their notes or script. It’s a shame but it’s true, we still see it every day.
Used creatively, visual aids can help us to greatly increase the impact of our message. They can help to stimulate the imagination of our audience and substantially increase the likelihood of our message being remembered and acted upon.
Use pictures, colour, contrast and headlines rather than too much text.
One idea per slide and kill the bullet points.
3. Make friends
Remember when you were a child and you went out to play with your friends.Often the last words you heard from your mother were, ‘play nicely’.
Well, we believe that even though we’re all grown up now and no longer in the park, a presentation is a wonderful opportunity to ‘play nicely’ and make friends.
How do you make friends?
You find things you have in common with them and talk about them.
You tell them great stories.
You smile, empathise with them and show them you care.
You pay them compliments.
You listen to them.
You ask them questions.
You add value to their lives.
Great presenters make it their business to make friends with their audience. They see presenting as having a conversation rather than giving a lecture. They connect with people rather than just share information.
4. If you don’t care, don’t do it!
Intellectually it makes sense that if we don’t really care about the message we are presenting then it’s very unlikely that our audience will.
Why should they care if they can see that we don’t?
While that may be the case, it’s another one of those mysterious things that happens every day in meeting rooms right across the world. A great numbr of people are presenting ideas to audiences that they really don’t care much for themselves.
One critical ingredient for a highly effective and memorable presentation is passion.
Can you fake passion?
Of course, just like you can fake most things in life. The trouble is that when you do, it’s often unsustainable and more importantly, very visible. In other words, your audience can tell.
Our advice is simple; if you really don’t care, then don’t speak about it. If you absolutely have to because it’s your job, then you have two choices:
– Find something in your content that you really can care about.
– Find another job if you can’t find anything at all.
5. Play with post it notes
Don’t make the mistake many presenters do which is to turn on the Laptop, call up the last PowerPoint slides you used and start to write your new content over the old.
All that does is stifle creativity. It creates a recipe for linear thinking and a monotonous presentation in terms of both content and delivery.
Forget the laptop. Play with large colourful ‘post it’ notes and marker pens instead. Here’s what you do:
Start with 3 ‘post it’ notes and write down:
– Your message
– What you want your listeners to feel
– What you want your audience to do
Put the 3 ‘post it’ notes up on the centre of a wall together. Stand back, take a deep breath and have a really close look at them.
Brainstorm and write down on new notes everything you can possibly think that will support, influence and add power to those 3 notes in the centre.
Let your mind go wild and free. Write down the crazy ideas too.
Use one ‘post it’ note for each idea. Stick each idea up on the wall around your centre piece.
Leave them up on the wall for a few hours (preferably 24). Go and get on with your life.
Go back to your wall. Now, with a fresh pair of eyes take a good look at what you’ve written.
Take a deep breath and have another go adding anything new that comes to mind.
Now group your ideas into the themes that are emerging.
Write down each theme that totally supports your message, what you want them to feel and do. Be mercenary; less is more. You need only what supports your 3 central ‘post it’ notes.
From those themes you have selected you can now create slides using post it notes. One point per ‘post it,’ supported by your own personal little drawing on each.
Now you can turn on the laptop.
6. Watch TED talks
One of the greatest resources for speakers today is available for free 24/7. It’s accessible in the comfort of our own home, office and at the touch of a screen or click of a key. It’s even on your phone!
TED(Technology, Entertainment and Design) began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged and today covers almost all topic – from science to business to global issues.
It’s an amazing learning resource for presenters. You can watch hundreds of fascinating talks that are no longer than 18 minutes each. You can take whatever you feel that you really like and that could work for you in terms of your personal style and delivery. Adapt and integrate those principles into your own key strengths.
Whilst most of the TED talks are content rich, some of the speakers aren’t great so watch out for them too. Learn what doesn’t work so well and make a point of avoiding those.
Don’t try to become your favourite speaker. Just take what you like and use it to be the best version of you.
7. Ask ‘so what?’
As a public speaking coach when I’m sitting in the audience myself, this is the one question I find myself asking the most.
In the quiet of my own mind, I often find myself asking the presenter, ‘So what?’
I’m often trying to work out the relevance and value to me of what the presenter is saying, showing or doing.
As you prepare your presentation ask yourself that question before your audience does. Put yourself in their shoes.
Ask yourself what the specific value and relevance is for your audience for everything you plan to share. Make sure you have really good answers and don’t leave your audience thinking, ‘So what?’
8. Don’t sell to them
That’s it, really.
Most people don’t like being sold to by presenters so just don’t do it.
9. Choose your coach wisely
If you Google the term ‘Public speaking coach’ you are likely to get a return of over 329 million results.
Everyone seems to be a presentation coach!
Like every profession on the planet there are some brilliant ones and those you may wish to avoid. Anyone can learn to give a great presentation; it’s a learnable skill.
When your objective is to become highly effective in any new skill it pays well to have a great coach.
There are plenty of presentation coaches and trainers out there who are extremely competent yet have never personally given an important or high stakes presentation in their life. In fact, we meet many who teach people to present but have never actually presented anything outside of their own training room; avoid those coaches.
In our experience the best presentation coaches and trainers are those that have presented extensively themselves to a wide range of audiences in a variety of settings. They have presented successfully in difficult and challenging speaking situations and have presented very successfully where there is a great deal at stake.
They’re the ones you want.
The practice of meditation has been proven to help people to:
– Improve memory
– Improve attention
– Enhance creativity
That’s why every time I give an important presentation I spend 5 to 10 minutes before I speak meditating myself.
It’s extremely powerful so find a method you’re comfortable with and try it.
If you are presenting soon and need a little help:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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 public speaking 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 istock.com