Passionate about presenting and public speaking?
Let me start with a confession, just so you know where I stand on this. I am passionate about presenting and public speaking. Whether contributing to a small group discussion or presenting in a large auditorium; I love it. I own my voice, I own my message and I very much own the space. If the Business Bard was a brand then a confident presenter would be a key element of it.
Now I’m not going to sit up here on my lofty pedestal of presenting success waving down at you! Because I also enjoy sharing my enthusiasm, coaching and supporting people, helping to build their confidence and providing training and tips to help everyone become a more confident and articulate speaker. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, manager or team leader, effective communication skills should be part of your personal effectiveness armoury.
Don’t we all want to make a difference?
Many roles in today’s business world require people to present and speak publicly. If we contribute to a discussion, whether in the board room or a quick team meeting, don’t we want people to listen and recognise our contribution? Don’t we want to deliver the message confidently, clearly and concisely with impact? Engaging the audience, being credible, influencing people and achieving results?
So it’s more than presenting. Maybe you are representing an idea, your team, organisation or business. If we’re presenting an important pitch to get new business, presenting a bid for funding, often your presentation can be the first time the audience has come into contact with your business or brand; it’s a great marketing opportunity and one you want to get right. I understand that some people get nervous; fear of presenting can cause immense stress. I enjoy supporting and working with these people, building their confidence helping them to work through their nerves. The nerves may never disappear but they can be controlled.
However, there’s something quite bizarre about presenting and public speaking; what I call the illusion of the presenter gene. We all want to avoid becoming the ’there’s nothing you can teach me’ kind of entrepreneur, leader or manager. Sadly, I’ve seen and met many business owners and managers who assume that their hard work and the knowledge and experience they’ve acquired, combined with the position they’ve achieved, instantly makes them naturally engaging, enthusiastic, informative and interesting speakers. Not so! Few of us sat behind the wheel of a car for our first driving lesson and instantly qualified to race in Formula 1. I’m sure few athletes will turn up to the London Olympics next year without continually training and honing their skills.
So why, pray tell, do some people think that anyone can present and that they would be the last people to need any training or coaching to support them? Yes, some people are naturally gifted presenters, confident and relaxed. Even if you enjoy talking to people, as a presenter or speaker you have to continually review whether you are delivering your message successfully, influencing others and achieving your outcome. You must honestly ask yourself; am I a speaker with credibility?
Where’s a good starting point?
As a manager, leader or entrepreneur you owe it to yourself to be an articulate, relaxed and credible speaker or presenter. Effective presenting, public speaking and communication skills can enhance your reputation enabling you to demonstrate and convey your knowledge and skills.
So think about the following:
- Be yourself, be authentic whether your audience knows you or not. An audience can easily detect artifice.
- Be formal or informal as the occasion merits, if you are unsure; ask!
- Plan properly, know your subject and think of the structure of your presentation; marrying your subject knowledge to your message and desired outcome, always be mindful of how you can engage your audience.
- Keep the needs of your audience in mind including opportunities for questions, length of whole presentation, bite size junks and the venue.
- Delivery; stand up or sit down? I always stand when presenting whether to a small group or large audience, it helps me get into the zone. Some presenters sit when delivering to a small group; think what the occasion merits, the outcome you are seeking and the expectation of the audience.
- Focus on me not the slide! Visual aids are important to illustrate and enhance your message. Tens of slides packed full of information will draw attention away from the presenter; keep slides simple – numbers, photos and bullet points.
One more thing
And as I say to all presenters; just go out there and enjoy it! Oh and don’t forget to breathe!