Does this sound like you?
“I’m a fine communicator one-on-one, but put me in front of a group and I just die!” Why is it easier for many of us to present in front of a few people than to a larger audience? Why do many of us believe that some people just “have what it takes” to present effectively, and the rest of us don’t?
The truth is that everyone has the innate gifts to speak in public. True, few may possess the flamboyance of the professional motivational speaker. But I question the value of many of these presentation skills. They can be mechanistically learned and often look mechanical. And although it does matter how you use your hands (avoiding the infamous “figleaf” pose, for example) and how you pitch your voice, the real gift you have to offer is YOU.
The Best Tool of All
Envision for an instant the most compelling speaker you have witnessed. Chances are you felt he or she was 100% authentic, no matter what speaking “style” s/he possessed. This willingness to fully be ourselves in front of a group is both the risk and the gift of truly wonderful speakers.
I work with many individuals who never thought of themselves as speakers–whose personalities are naturally introspective or reflective, the opposite of what is popularly thought of as “speaker material.” Yet when these presenters “unpeel” their previous expectations about what a speaker should be or do, they often become the most moving and impressive I have seen.
Three Essential Tips
It’s important to remember that speaking publicly is, to use Lee Glickenstein’s phrase, a relationship event, NOT a performance event. Your audience remembers what you say because you connect with them, not because you are the smartest or most charismatic person in the world.
- Don’t speak “to,” speak “with.”
Think of the event as a dialogue or conversation. Look directly at people and share your knowledge with them.
- Express yourself.
Remember that your unique style is better than any set of “stage skills.” Be yourself.
But Is “Being Yourself” Really Enough?
All truly compelling presenters use their greatest asset–themselves–to sell their concept and get their message across. All also realize that they can intensify their authentic selves for a more dynamic effect. Don Pfarrer, author of Guerilla Persuasion: Mastering the Art of Effective and Winning Business Presentation, calls this the “Intensified You” persona. It is “a task oriented, turned-on, intensified version of yourself.”
When I work with clients to achieve their own Intensified You personas, I notice their increased confidence and resilience as speakers. This is particularly useful when they deal with jaded or potentially hostile audiences.
4 Elements of The Intensified You
- Subject Mastery
You must know your subject thoroughly AND know the limits of your knowledge.
You must “keep a steady hand on the tiller”–knowing you might need to change course to avoid a hurricane, but not allowing a small squall to deflect you.
You must remain sensitive to your audience. If you were a member of your own audience, what would you need to hear? To see?
Include in your presentation what needs to be there–don’t hide anything. Show you are aware of challenges or problems; then present solutions.
When you remember that the authentic YOU is your most valuable speaking tool, your confidence will increase dramatically!