Presenters are NOT part of the audience
Presentations are about how the audience react … not about how you, as the presenter, reacts!
Various research shows that public speaking is feared by around 73% of men and 75% of women. Public speaking allows us to form connections, influence decisions, and motivate change. Without communication skills, the ability to progress in the working world and in life, itself, would be nearly impossible. Public speaking is one of the most important and most dreaded forms of communication. So, what do you do?
When we prepare, we typically focus on identifying our market, streamlining our offerings and refining our service levels. These components are the ‘easy’ aspects and are mostly mechanical processes. However, it is how you interact and engage with your audience that will mostly determine how they react and ultimately influence the success of your presentation. If you fail at the engagement stage, due to lack of skills or confidence, you have simply wasted time, resources and probably damaged your brand. The current global increase in the number of virtual, versus face-to-face, presentations means that establishing a reciprocal rapport with your audience is more important than ever. Here are some guidelines that have served me well.
Embrace any nervousness you may experience. Moderate stress is good. One of my colleagues would say,
“Being nervous about presenting is good. Being nervous about being nervous is not good.”
Don’t expect perfection at first. It will get better. Don’t equate your delivery with your self-worth. Research and take notes from the greats (YouTube, etc.). Public speaking did not come naturally to people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Learn to love all feedback, particularly negative feedback (This is how we learn). Believe in your message, the value and speak with passion (Let your style shine).
Practice, Practice, Practice
“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the blade” (Abraham Lincoln)
Rehearse on your own a few times. Use a mirror, standing up. Practice out loud. Start small (A few friends & colleagues). Record yourself and playback the recording – that’s what your audience hears. Simulate the presentation setting. Time your presentation. Internalise your content rather than memorising it. You are there to tell a compelling story, not to recite what is on your slides. Ask for specific feedback. When people say, “It was good or okay”, they are avoiding the question. Ask direct questions. “What about it was good, the delivery, the content, etc.?” Visualise the audience’s response and your success.
While you are not practicing, your competitors are!
Dress for the audience (even for virtual presentations) Get personal, engage the audience, make eye contact and shake a few hands before you start. (If you can). In virtual events ask the audience to ‘check-in’ (How are you? How is your day? What are you expecting from this presentation?) Pace yourself and tell your story. Prepare for ‘curved-ball’ questions, you know they are coming.
It’s not about you, it’s about your content, and you are the expert in the room.