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How to Blow Your Credibility From The “Get-Go”

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 How to blow your credibility from the Get -Go

When you are speak­ing in front of a group, do you really want to blow your rela­tion­ship with the audi­ence imme­di­ately? These two com­mon pre­sen­ta­tion behav­iors will help to ensure that you do!

Myth #1: You should start a pre­sen­ta­tion by thank­ing your audi­ence or your hosts.young man presenting

Pic­ture it: You’ve pre­pared care­fully and are about to present. The first words to your audi­ence as you take the stage? “Thank you. I’m glad to be here,” or some­thing similar.

These words serve many pur­poses. Quite pos­si­bly, you are not really thank­ing any­one. Instead, you are using the words to ease your way into your posi­tion as pre­sen­ter. You say the words mechan­i­cally, not really hear­ing them your­self, as you peer at the crowd (or not) and shuf­fle your papers.

Your attempt is to make your­self com­fort­able by utter­ing “Thank you.” Mean­while, your audi­ence has expe­ri­enced this robotic open­ing so many times that:

1. They don’t really hear it.
2. “Thank you” means noth­ing.
3. They start to tune you out–and you haven’t even started!

You’ve already wasted an oppor­tu­nity to con­nect with your audi­ence, just so that YOUcould take a stab at feel­ing more com­fort­able as you begin to speak. Was it worth it?

What to Remem­ber
Your pre­sen­ta­tion actu­ally begins two min­utes before you take the stage. You should have slipped into your “pre­sen­ter per­sona” before you are even intro­duced. This per­sona is the authen­tic YOU—but a lit­tle more so. You are alive with energy–pumped up, feel­ing pow­er­ful, and ready to go.

Within just ten sec­onds after your tak­ing the stage, you should have engaged your audience’s atten­tion and inter­est. Sim­ply say­ing “Thank you, etc., etc., ” won’t accom­plish that.

What to Do
Take the stage. Stand for 1–2 sec­onds in silence. Stay con­nected with your body. Be totally present. Feel your feet, quads, spine, and chest. Fill your body with breath and strength. Breathe, smile, and con­nect with your audi­ence. Look at audi­ence mem­bers and “make friends” with them nonverbally.

THEN open your mouth to speak. Engage your audi­ence with an anec­dote, ques­tion, or men­tal exer­cise. Be sure that this open­ing leads flu­idly into the body of your presentation.

To ensure that those first pre­cious moments enhance your pre­sen­ta­tion and cred­i­bil­ity, prac­tice the first few min­utes of your pre­sen­ta­tion at least 4–6 times prior to “show­time.” Your prac­tice should take place in front of a mir­ror. Begin with pre­tend­ing that you hear your­self being intro­duced (or get your spouse or friend to intro­duce you.)

Make the motions of get­ting out of a chair and walk­ing to the front of the room. Then take the stage, and fol­low the instruc­tions above.

Why?
By cen­ter­ing your­self before speak­ing, you don’t need to fall back on clichés. And when you actu­ally do thank your audi­ence and/or hosts at the end of your pre­sen­ta­tion, your words will be much more heart­felt, authen­tic, and heard.

Myth #2: You should move about as you present.

You’ve got to be kid­ding!” I can hear some read­ers say­ing. “Some of the best pre­sen­ters I had in col­lege walked as they talked.” Oth­ers will say, “Look, I move around when I give a pre­sen­ta­tion. It keeps the audi­ence awake!”

What to Remem­ber
There is con­scious, or delib­er­ate, movement—and then there is its oppo­site. Many speak­ers (espe­cially males) demon­strate a kind of unfo­cused, ram­bling, back-and-forth move­ment with their feet. This dis­tracts enor­mously from their message.

Focused move­ment has to do with cen­ter­ing your­self as a speaker. When your mind is jum­bled and jump­ing from thought to thought, you are more likely to move about in a jum­bled, unfo­cused way. When you are truly invested in what you are say­ing, AND con­nected via eye con­tact to your audi­ence, your focus is clearer. You are less apt to aim­lessly wander.

Remem­ber, it’s good to ges­ture with your arms and hands to enhance the mean­ing of your words. It is not good to wan­der the stage as you think out loud.

What to Do
Become aware of WHY you are mov­ing. Do you want to address another part of the audi­ence? It’s totally accept­able to move from one side of the stage to another, but then you must STOP to make your point. Ges­ture dra­mat­i­cally with the top half of your body. Use your hands, arms, and torso. But keep your feet still as you make your impor­tant points.

The best sug­ges­tion is sim­ply this: Be inter­ested and invested in what you are say­ing, and say it directly to the audi­ence as if they were a friend. Chances are, you won’t “wig­gle around” so much with this mindset.

Why?
Aris­to­tle paced the Lyceum when he was teach­ing, and Kierkegaard was a pro­po­nent of walk­ing while he thought aloud. But today’s world, it’s all about con­nec­tion with the audi­ence. This means that you face your audi­ence directly and securely, no “bob­bling” allowed.

In Con­clu­sion

The under­ly­ing mes­sage of both these Myth-Busters is this: Pre­sen­ters, be Present! Be 100% “there” for your audi­ence, both phys­i­cally and mentally.

Remem­ber that your pre­sen­ta­tion begins min­utes before you take the stage. Get cen­tered and focused before you start talking…and beware of your “wan­der­ing ways.”

Boost your Train­ing Skills with a work­shop from Guila. We will also help you improve your  Facil­i­ta­tion and Pre­sen­ta­tion Skills.

Guila Muir is the pre­miere trainer of train­ers, facil­i­ta­tors, and pre­sen­ters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thou­sands of pro­fes­sion­als improve their train­ing, facil­i­ta­tion, and pre­sen­ta­tion skills. Find out how she can help trans­form you from a bor­ing expert to a great pre­sen­ter: www.guilamuir.com

© 2009 Guila Muir. All rights reserved.
You may make copies of this arti­cle and dis­trib­ute in any media so long as you change noth­ing, credit the author, and include this copy­right notice and web address.

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