Hello SOTGC community,
As a college grad, I always feared taking the classes I would have to present at. I remember it like it was yesterday; the sweaty palms, the feeling of wanting to vomit, and the thoughts going through my head: “What if I forget and have a complete blackout …. Oh dear, and what if I stumble over my own words …. I mean, everybody will be staring.” It certainly wasn’t a healthy approach because little did I know that I would get into a profession where I would present in front of hundreds of people with masters and medical degrees. I got away with it for a little bit, but even staff meetings were making me nervous until my manager took us on a presentation course that gave me a new appreciation for public speaking.
The course was led by the founder himself who used to be a barrister (English version for a lawyer). Barristers might as well be actors. They are known for their exaggerated acting behavior in court, but that is why it is such an elite profession. After defending the same person for the third time, David Lancaster, the instructor, decided to quit the profession, and, instead, teach how to become a better presenter. His style was unusual and drew us out of our comfort zone. Not only was I introduced to the secrets behind a good presentation, but I also never gave a presentation the same way. I looked at PowerPoint as a supporter of my presentations instead of the main focus, and I started paying attention more to the presence I was exuding and the way I was exuding it.
I started my presentations by asking my audience what their first thought was after I introduced my topic. That way, I had a single focus for my presentation, and I was sure to address the things that came to mind first, ensuring I would engage my audience. How often do we start a conversation by going on this long journey before we hit home? That’s the difference between a Roman and a Greek approach. Take, for example, going to a car dealership and wanting to know the asking price for a car. The sales person might first give you twenty reasons for why the car is worth buying before he ever mentions the price. Or, you could first get the price, and then hear about why the car is worth the money. It’s a shift in our thinking, but what a way of captivating your audience.
The other advice that the presenter gave us is to remember our core message and what the supportive key points are. Remembering full sentences is what causes us to feel nervous if we deviate. The key to success is to repeat a presentation at least four times and keep in mind the main points. That way, even if you forget to say it in those exact words, you can still go back to its core message. Nobody knows what you didn’t say, but it will give you an additional security blanket.
And finally, you have got to act the part. If you want to own it, you have to walk like a matador. A matador walks with purpose, chest out, and he makes the bull feel as if he is in command. It’s a tactic that I learned from one of the TED Talks. We always say mind over body, but what if we reverse it? Before one of my biggest presentations, I went to the bathroom where nobody could see me, and I simply put my hands in the air as if I had just won a marathon. Acting like a winner and owning my body made me feel confident while easing my mind. Sometimes I will add a song to my warm up as well to give me that extra adrenaline. Whatever it is, find your niche and maybe do some unconventional things until you find that one thing that will consistently work for you.
To recap: 1. Make PowerPoint your supporter; fewer words, more images. PowerPoint presentations shouldn’t be giving the talk for you. 2. Try the Greek approach by starting with the main point first. 3. Ask your audience what is on their mind when they hear your topic. 4. Break down your presentation into key points versus full sentences. It’s not the amount of words you use, it’s HOW you say it. 5. Body over mind. Walk like a winner and you will be one.
It took me a long time to find the things that work for me, and there is certainly not one formula that works for everybody. I encourage everybody to find their own rituals, and see how you can start embracing public speaking versus avoiding it. Please join the SOTGC family and share what has worked for you.