Imagine that you have somebody who believes that effective presenting means turning yourself into one of history’s great orators, with a booming voice and dramatic sweeping cadences. Or sometimes the persona becomes somebody addressing the school debating society in a very serious (and insincere) tone.
Body language can be affected in equally disturbing ways: from the statue to the hyperactive prowler. Hands become immovable appendages or wave around furiously as though you are hoping to fly.
As a presentation coach I sometimes ask somebody to forget they are preparing for a presentation and ‘just talk to me.’ Once they start doing this, we become engaged in a two way communication process.
Having delivered their material in this informal way, the stress and the unnatural behaviour start to disappear. Your presentation is then a question of replicating this natural style of communication – just with a bit more projection.
Our natural verbal communication style is conversational. The further we get pulled away from this norm the more forced everything seems and the less connection we have with our audience. The ‘unnatural’ nature of presenting (or what some imagine presenting to be) is also a cause of stress. This, in turn, is a cause of yet more unnatural behaviour.
Talking is natural
I recently worked with an inexperienced presenter who was dreading delivering a presentation to her MD and other directors. The first rehearsal was as you might have expected.
But after a couple of run-throughs in the ‘just talk to me’ mode, everything clicked into place. The final presentation was then delivered confidently and naturally and the fear of presenting has all but disappeared.
After all, a large part of presenting is ‘just talking to people’ - and we all know how to do that.
At one end of the scale you have the nervous wreck. Moments ago they were a normal person, able to communicate in lucid coherent sentences. And suddenly they’re a bundle of nerves, unable to make sense and plagued by hesitations and ‘errs’.
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