There’s a little part of most people that imagines themselves standing up in front of an audience and having them eating out of their hand. Rapt, the audience hangs on every word, laughs on cue and follows every nuance.
And most people grudgingly admit that this vision is unattainable. They feel they lack the booming voice, and the broad sweeps and gestures of the theatrical presentation style that they think will be needed.
Well, here’s the good news. It’s inside all of us to command the attention of a room full of strangers. To find the secret of how to do this, inside ourselves is where we need to look. Unless you have the acting talent of Olivier the secret doesn’t lie in pretending to be someone else. It’s about being yourself, only more so.
Without undergoing a personality transformation here are a few steps you can take that will help you ‘own’ the presentation experience and the space.
Get over the insecurity
You are delivering the presentation for a reason. You have something to say that the audience wants to know about (why else would they be there). They are not there to judge, they are there to learn. Go out to give it your best shot without feeling embarrassed and try to relax with a few deep breaths before you start.
Measure your delivery
No, not with a ruler. But perhaps with a stopwatch. Don’t attempt to say more than you can fit comfortably into your allotted time. You can then speak slowly and deliberately (believe me, you will be speaking faster than you think you are). If necessary, trim the content and refocus on the 3 or 4 points your audience will be able to remember.
A calm measured delivery tells your audience that you are in control of yourself and of the presentation. Sounding like you’re in a hurry to get it over with is fatal.
Sound like you believe it
The moment you sound like you don’t have confidence in what you are saying you have lost the audience - never to return. Emphasize and pause at key points. Have conviction in your voice and variety in your tone.
Ask for affirmation (with confidence that you’ll get it) from the audience’s own experiences: ‘I’m sure you’ve done … or noticed...,’ ‘who here has ever...?’ You are now also involving the audience rather than leaving them to be passive observers.
Not just your voice
Make eye contact around the room. Use gestures and movement (but without looking like a Whirling Dervish). A good resting stance is with your feet around 18 inches apart and with your hands out in front of your body.
Don’t use slides as a crutch
Slides are there to enrich your presentation and help people remember important messages. They are not meant to be a script. You should aim for a presentation that you could deliver confidently even if the projector broke down.
Practise at least six times
Practise even more if you can, until you are certain about what you will say and how you will say it. Notes should then just be a few words that act as memory joggers.
I don’t want to pretend that following this advice is easy. Experience is still an excellent teacher. But there is a commanding presenter inside you somewhere. My job as a coach is to help you find that presenter.
If you are searching for your inner presentation superstar, let me help. Call me on 01963 240555 Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach. [email protected]
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.