This last week I have been very busy, mainly because I was involved in two days of teaching where I had to present to nursing colleagues. Also on Good Friday I was involved in my local churches “Good Friday Workshop”, helping children to make hot cross buns!
Presenting, any form of standing in front of a group of people and talking, is something I used to hate. Performing in front of others – yuk. As a child my introvert personality and low self esteem meant I was always petrified at the thought of having to stand in front of the class and say anything.
I’m no expert on the works of Shakespeare – but I will forever know the 15th March as the “Ides of March”. At school (aged around 10) our class did a performance of Julius Caesar in which I was given (I would have preferred to have done nothing) the role of “Soothsayer” with one line “Beware the Ides of March”. Despite the fact that everyone else had far more complex lines and parts, and we were only doing the play to ourselves, I had problems remembering this simple line. I can still recall, 40 years later, not being able to say that simple line in rehearsal and having to write it on a piece of card.
I’ve recently come across Robin Sharma, a very successful personal development and leadership coach/lecturer/leader – who travels the world giving top companies his wisdom. In the first podcast of his I listened to Robin explain how in the past he dreaded giving any sort of presentation. Even at University, he planned his law degree with modules that didn’t involve having to present! Yet now, after years of practice, he is paid megabucks for his presentations.
Going back to my teaching presentations last week, all the information was available in various documents. I could have said – “Just read this”. Interestingly many politicians now release their speeches in advance of delivering them – so why bother?
One good way to be more confident about giving a presentation is to breakdown the word – present-ation. You are there to give your audience a present – its going to be much easier for them to learn the topic by listening to you rather than just reading the material.
Taking that a stage further, if your presentation is going to help them, they are going to be on your side. They want to hear what you have to say – if for any reason you didn’t turn up they’d be disappointed.
Prior to giving a presentation its very easy to start thinking about everything that might go wrong, to picture yourself standing in front of a crowd of hostile people unable to utter a word. If you’re speaking on a familiar topic, like I was last week, you’ll probably have too much to say, rather than not enough. But counter the tendency to worry and think negatively by preparing some positive statements:-
“I have a lot of knowledge on this topic”
“I can help my audience learn how to ….”
“They really want to hear me speak”
“I have organized what I want to say, I have material in reserve”
“I was born with the ability to speak, I speak standing up everyday, I have a good, clear voice”
You get the idea – formulate your own according to the circumstances of your presentation. As illustrated above, preparing what you want to say will obviously help your confidence and ultimately help your presentation. Sometimes you need to give something word for word – my daughter has just returned home from giving a bible reading at church. You can’t really ad lib in such circumstances!
But usually its easier and better to communicate with your audience if you organize your presentation into headings, with perhaps the occasional quote or sentence you want to put across in full. This helps the flow and allows you to speak “normally”, to connect and interact with your audience. You will be able to converse with them, rather than lecture them.
Pay some attention to what I was saying last time about body language. If you are nervous it will pay dividends spending a few minutes getting your body “organized” – look like the expert you are. Since writing about “smiling with your eyes“, I have found another Shakespeare quote:-
“The eyes are the windows to the soul”
I have also written before on practicing speaking, and breathing, which will also help your confidence. If you are speaking to a large room of people, “connect” with people at the back of the room and project your voice to them. That doesn’t mean shouting, but raising your voice to a high enough level to be heard without losing your natural vocal tone.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes. I still felt slightly nervous last week, but reminded myself that was my body pumping some adrenaline into my bloodstream to ensure I was on top form!
photo by cloudsoup on flickr.com