How to think like an effective presenter – 4 steps to set you on your path

Pensive and serious young black businessman sitting in a chair in his office and looking through a window away. Shot from behind.

The key to being a effective presenter is simple to understand but not so easy to use.

The key is thought

Before you dismiss the idea as obvious, please give it some thought.

I believe it was the 1925 Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw who once said: “Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.”

When I first read that quote many years ago, I quickly dismissed it as ridiculous. After later giving it a great deal of thought it occurred to me that what Mr Shaw was trying to tell us is that thinking is hard. In fact, the longer I stopped to really think about it, the more I started to realise that thinking is one of our greatest challenges in life.

When it comes to presenting there are two types of speaker. The first is the mediocre presenter who follows the status quo and does what they’ve always done giving themselves, their audience and their impact little thought.

The second is the effective presenter.

The mediocre presenter’s thought process, they:

Launch PowerPoint

Fill slides with as much information as they can

Focus on impressing their audience

Believe that more is best

Give little thought to their audience

Leave it to the last minute to prepare

Believe that practicing simply means reading their notes/slides

The effective presenter thought process, they:

Open their minds long before they open their laptops

Think seriously about what they have to say and why it matters

Focus deeply about who their audience are and why they care

Craft a message that is clear and compelling

Put themselves in their audience’s shoes

Focus on connecting with their audience, not impressing them

Understand that ‘less is more’

Practice by internalising their message and practicing their verbal and non-verbal expression of that message – getting feedback

Mind to Mind

The effective presenter considers, crafts, practices and delivers their presentation in the knowledge that whoever their audience is, they are presenting mind to mind. Scientific research tells us that ‘the mind is not just a product of brain activity.’ That challenges the long held notion that its sufficient to simply dump data on our colleagues and clients.

Few would doubt the idea that the mind is a powerful tool. We all know that the effectiveness of a tool of any description is dependent on the way we use it. In the case of our mind, if it’s something we take for granted and give little thought or attention to, we will present in the same way that everyone else does.

You already have the key. Your challenge when it comes to mindful presenting is to practice turning it. The best way to activate your key is by practicing self-awareness.

The following four steps will take you on the path to self- awareness and becoming an effective presenter:

Step 1. Take time out

We all need to make time to slow down, calm down, pause and reflect.

Spend a few minutes each day taking some time out to meditate or simply sit quietly, breathe and tune into yourself.

If you make this a daily practice in your life in general, it will be one of the first things you do when you are called on to present. Imagine the impact you would have on your audience if long before you opened your laptop to build your presentation you sat quietly, took a few long, slow deep breaths and reflected on the following questions:

Why am I speaking?

How do I speak?

What am I trying to achieve?

How will this help my audience?

How do I want them to feel?

Step 2.  Write them down

Once you start to become more aware of your thoughts write them down.

We can greatly increase our self-awareness by writing down what we think, what we want to do to improve things and tracking our progress.

As powerful as our thoughts are, it doesn’t take long before they are superseded by new ones. Some of these can be conflicting thoughts.

If you are thinking about becoming a better presenter, write down your thoughts?

Step 3. Ask for feedback

Don’t just take your own word for what’s going on in your own mind, ask others too; get some feedback.

Create a safe environment to ask people you trust how they see you. Approach your family, friends and peers to give you their honest and direct perspective on some of your thoughts and behaviours. Ask them to play the role of an honesty mirror so that you can see what they see.

This is critical as a mindful presenter because what you think and feel as a speaker isn’t always what your audience sees. The next time you are called on to present find someone you trust and ask them to be completely candid with you.

Step 4. Listen to yourself

We all talk to ourselves; no one is exempt. Listening to what we say and the way we speak to ourselves is vital in the quest for self-awareness. Please however, keep in mind that I’m not suggesting for a moment that we believe everything we tell ourselves. In fact, that’s precisely my point; often we have to challenge our own thoughts.

If the way you speak to yourself is helpful and taking you in the direction of your aspirations then make a point of thanking yourself from time to time.

If your self-talk isn’t very helpful and likes to make reference to your failures or dwell on negative thoughts then remind it who is in charge; you.

Each time you hear yourself telling you something that isn’t helpful don’t believe it, challenge it.

‘I’m a terrible public speaker’

‘I know I’ll forget everything I’m supposed to say’

‘My audience will see how nervous I am’

All of these are thoughts are only true if you choose to believe them

If you ever hear your thoughts speaking to you this way shout ‘Stop!’ in your mind and follow it with more positive and helpful self-talk. Imagine how you would feel if you told yourself the opposite of what you just heard in your mind.

The world is full of presenters but it’s longing for something else; mindful presenters.

You already hold the key, its just a question of turning it.

If you need help becoming a more effective presenter:

– 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

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