Ah, yes. The dreaded corporate presentation. Standing up in front of people. Sweaty palms. Croaky voice. Looking like a fool. Sounding like an amateur. It’s hell, isn’t it?
But have you thought about why it’s such an ordeal? After all, for an allocated period of time, you’re in total control of people’s lives. That’s what presenting is all about. Tell them to stand up and they’ll do it. Yell ‘Shut up!’ and watch the room ice over. Heck, you can even send someone out to make you a cup of tea if you feel like it. So much wonderful, wonderful power.
It follows then that people fear presenting because of this issue of power. Either:
- They don’t like the idea of power, or
- They feel undeserving of power
The first one I can’t answer. Some folks just don’t like having authority and that’s completely fine. The second point, however, we can definitely improve. By following my tips below and putting in the practice, you’ll get to a place where you feel that you – damn it, yes you – deserve centre stage.
Give Yourself Charisma
Because no-one else will. This is where it starts. Confidence is a choice. You can either focus on all the reasons why you’re no good, or on all the things that make you a star. Why are you giving a presentation anyway? Why should people listen to you? What gives you the right to demand other people’s attention? When you think about it, you’ll realise that you are entitled to that spotlight. Make a list. Don’t just stop at professional reasons – recall all the times you’ve had to fight through life. Your achievements. Your breakthroughs. Damn right people should listen to you! Now go out there and own it.
Sell What You Say
One of the first things I teach my clients is that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Word choice only accounts for 7% of communication. Stumbling over words is nothing to fear because words, actually, aren’t all that important. You could present the lyrics to Yellow Submarine and the room will be forced to draw their own conclusions (I’ve tried this). Furthermore, people only remember around 50% of what they see and hear: it’s therefore more about the general impression that you give. Whatever you say, say it with total conviction. After all, if you don’t believe in what’s coming out your mouth, why should anyone else?
Slow Down… !
Woah, horsey! What’s the rush? In all my years of training others, I’d say that most people have a problem of speed. And, of course, they’re always completely oblivious to it (poor audience!).
There are several reasons why people present like greased lightning:
- They are nervous
- They want to get it over and done with
- They talk fast anyway
- They are recalling a written speech and the words are coming out in a string
Remember what we said about words only making up 7% of communication? The best orators in history slowed their speeches right down to ensure maximum absorption. Can you? Yes. We. Can. So slow down… and… use… pauses. Don’t be scared of empty silences: they’re dramatic. Slow is powerful. Fast is silly.
… But Keep It Punchy!
Conciseness, conciseness, conciseness. Succinctness, succinctness, succinctness. Or rather… ‘concise+succinct’. Period. You get the idea. Making never-ending points, talking for the sake of talking, yabbering on in the hope a conclusion creates itself – these are all great ways to send your audience to The Great Yawn. Enough! Breathe. If you can reduce a paragraph to 3 powerful words, then please do so. People don’t remember speeches, they remember sound bites. If your presentation is full of crispy, snappy, catchy take-home messages, then victory will be yours. I could go on but… well.
I know. It’s horrible. But why? Because you’re afraid of what you might see? So what would be worse: confronting those little horrors in private (the monotone voice, the relentless stutters, the jerky moves, the weird facial expressions) or exhibiting them to the world unchecked? At least with the first option, you have the chance to repair before showtime. Make no mistake: nobody knows how they truly come across. Everybody gets a few awkward surprises when they see themselves on video. So whip your phone out and hit record. A little private cringe is better than a big public death. And stop covering your eyes!
If you embrace the spirit of this advice, then you will approach the podium with a different energy. What you’re really presenting is yourself, so do yourself justice. Practise. Record. Practise harder. Record. Choose confidence and work it every day until it’s granite. Remind yourself every night why you’re the star around here. Let the charisma flow.
Congratulations! You are now a powerful presenter.