Speaking and Presenting - I'd rather die!
I don't know how many times I have heard that people would rather die than get in front of others and speak and present.
This seems pretty extreme to me and having faced the very real possibility of the former, I can say with certain conviction that I would rather speak and present, any day!
So how do we get to be good at it. Some people, they just seem to get up and do it. They make it look so easy, like a walk in the park. No dramatics, only a wonderful story and a way to draw you, the audience, along.
Good presenters and speakers, when they are in action, appear to really just flow. They don't seem rehearsed, embarrassed, put off by questions or lose their stride. The power point in the background is interesting, in tune with what they are saying, and backing their key points up. It's a joy to listen to them and be caught up with what they are saying. Time speeds along.
Poor presenters and speakers - well, what can I say. We have all been to presentations or listened to speakers that we would rather not have had to listen to. There are any number of things that we can all identify that could improve a speaking performance and we are all very capable critics.
The thing is, in this day and age, it is very important to be able to present our ideas and to speak up. Whether that is to our colleagues and cohorts, or to a wider audience to talk with them about our organisation, service and offer, or to present ourselves as the person that can help them and add value to their business. We present ourselves, our organisations and skills every day. We just don't consciously think about it. And we don't normally have to get up and expose ourselves to do so.
Years ago I was told that when I was speaking and presenting - the best thing to do was to think of the audience as naked. Apart from being a really ugly picture in my head, (I mean, really, 100 naked men and women in a room, while I was to speak on serious business matters!- it didn't help at all.) Speaking and presenting was a terrifying possibility. More so if I wanted to be taken as a serious contender in business and getting others to believe I could make a difference for them. So thinking about them naked wasn't going to help at all.
The best advice I ever received was to consider the possibility, that when speaking and presenting, that it was not about me. It was all about them, the audience. How I could help, how what I was saying would be of benefit to them. How one tiny nugget of what I was saying may make a difference to another human being. What I was told was to consider that I was having an intimate conversation with one other person, only there were many in the room and consider what they would want to know.
I have cherished that piece of advice ever since. It has helped me re-shape what I might say on a number of occasions.
I am a speaker and presenter on a journey. I am not the world's best. But I am better, far, far, better than I was. When I began speaking and presenting to others, I too used to get pins and needles all the way up my arms. I would feel wretched and sick in my stomach. I would feel sweaty and panicked at the thought of it. I still get the butterflies. I have learned to welcome them. They help to make me edgy and wake me up. I don't want to be casual up there because that will make me causal towards the audience. The very people I would like to impress upon a with a message or learning. And they deserve it.
There are any number of ways to improve our skills in this space. Mastery takes time, and it takes repetition. Skill is only gained by constant work and evolution to improve. The best speakers in the world still critique their events and look to improve.
You don't have to get to that level. But in this day and age, getting to be an accomplished and comfortable presenter and speaker is important to you and your organisation. To survive in today's world it is vital to be able to get your ideas across. To be successful, you must be persuasive and be able to influence others. Find your own style and be yourself when you do speak. Be prepared to show your feelings, provide new information, share ideas and clarify issues. Presenting to others is a skill. No more and no less. It can be learnt and mastered.
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