It’s also a presentation killer that you need to get under control.
Virtually everybody starts this way. Some people realise what’s happening (perhaps with the help of a coach) and resolve to do something about it. Others shrink away from the challenge and condemn themselves to a career of presentations nobody remembers or cares about.
To put yourself on course to be a convincing presenter you need to identify and eliminate these diversionary tactics. Take control and avoid them. Keep the focus of attention where it needs to be - on you and your message.
It frustrates me when presenters tell me they’re not confident using PowerPoint, projectors or remote controls; that they hope all the technology works, or some other nonsense intended to encourage sympathy. I don’t care! Neither does your audience.
It’s a tactic to divert attention onto whether or not your presentation is going to fall over rather than it being on you.
The same goes for telling your audience that you’re not used to doing presentations or you’re a bit nervous. In other words: don’t take any notice of me, I’m doing this because I have to, not because I want to. Not a very compelling message to send out.
It is challenging when you have to follow a presenter who really has nailed their delivery. It can be intimidating. It’s tempting to say ‘How am I going to follow that?’, or something similar. This might seem like a bit of lighthearted self-deprecation but what is it telling your audience.
- Don’t expect too much
- I’m not looking forward to this
- Feel free to concentrate on something else now the main event is over (which is secretly what you’re hoping for)
The other great attention deflector is to refer or defer to a colleague or somebody else in the audience. ‘Margaret is the real expert on this… Then why isn’t she doing the presentation?
Bring me my shield!
Lecterns are a handy place to keep your notes to remind you of the points you want to cover. That’s all they are. They are not a deflector shield or invisibility cloak - so don’t try to hide behind them.
I’ve seen presenters visibly shrink their posture and stay rooted behind their lecterns to make themselves less obtrusive. They clearly don’t know they are doing it, they just know they feel more secure.
Be brave, stride out from where it feels safe, and make people notice you.
Similarly, knock it off with the tiny almost apologetic gestures (assuming you can prise your fingers off the side of the lectern). Make your hand and arm movements reflect the size of the auditorium you are trying to fill.
I can’t hear you
Not wanting to be the centre of attention results in a small voice as well as a small stature. Even if you have a PA system you still have to project your voice and talk to the back row.
The small, shallow voice tells people that you don’t really want them to hear what you’re saying. They’ll take this as a cue not to bother listening.
In any uncomfortable situation we naturally want to get it over with. The sub-conscious defence mechanism kicks in and makes you speed up your delivery. Be aware. Make a conscious effort to be more deliberate and measured in your speech - you’ll still be speaking quicker than you think you are.
Look into my eyes
Maintaining eye contact with a roomful of strangers is also uncomfortable. Fortunately that nice big screen full of your slides gives you somewhere else to look to reduce the discomfort. Or there’s always the ceiling or the back wall of the room.
You should know your slides inside out so you really don’t need to inspect them so frequently and so closely. And walls don’t really have ears so there’s no point talking to them either.
Respect your audience and keep the eye contact going. If it feels uncomfortable and unnatural, just make yourself do it. You’ll soon get used to it.
In fact, ‘just make yourself do it’ is the key. As a coach I can quickly spot and tell you about the attention diversion tactics you use without realising. Ultimately it’s up to you to take control and conquer them. Your audience will thank you for it.