In a controlled experiment, people watched somebody who looked like them go through a vigorous work out. Subsequently these people exercised longer and harder than a control group who watched somebody who didn’t look like them go through the same routine.
Think about that for a minute. Does it surprise you?
Self perception is something we’ve touched on before. It has a close relationship with my work as a presentation skills coach. Put simply, if you can see yourself doing something successfully, you become better at it. It works subliminally, which is why watching somebody who looks like you can trigger the same reaction as watching yourself do something well.
Psychologists who work with addictions and eating disorders understand how changing self-perception unlocks the door to changing behaviour. You have to see yourself as the sort of person who eats healthily before you can become that person.
Our self perception is a vast repository of signals and instructions other people give us throughout our lives. If you think of yourself as clumsy it probably stems from spilling something when you were a child. A whole series of self-reinforcing instructions follow over the years ‘I’m not giving this to you because you’ll only drop it,’ before you emerge as the fully fledged clumsy person you are today.
The good news is that you’re not stuck with that reality - you CAN change it! Here’s another exercise I saw a presenter carry out with a room full of teenagers. He called for a volunteer from the audience who was terrible at catching things. The girl who stepped forward was gently thrown six tennis balls and dropped every one of them. She was, after all, terrible at catching things.
Or was she?
Next he wrote a number on each ball and asked her to call out the number before she caught the ball. Six out of six safely pouched!
Suddenly the focus was on the ball and not on the fact that she couldn’t catch for toffee. You can see how this positive experience could be the start of building a different self perception.
How was your first presenting experience? Delivering an engaging presentation isn’t easy. Too often people get thrown in at the deep end with no training or guidance. When this doesn’t work out the self perception of being rubbish at presentations, or being somebody who hates doing it, starts to build.
Whatever polite words people may have found after the event, their body language while you stumbled through your slides gave you a much more powerful and lasting message: you are a rubbish presenter!
In presentation skills coaching I often start with somebody who believes they are bad at presenting. The hard evidence supporting that negative self perception is usually minimal: one or two bad experiences; probably down to lack or preparation rather than lack of ability.
Fascinatingly, these people are usually happy communicating information and ideas to a small group of people in a less formal setting. So what’s the difference? In reality not much - other than the numbers involved and a bit of vocal projection.
Build positive experiences Often, I provide opportunities such as presenting on a topic they know a lot about to a friendly audience, and then reflect on the positive aspects of the experience and how well they got their points across.
I also work really hard on the preparation and practice aspects of presenting. This is the most effective way to help people build positive experiences and perceptions that they carry through to their presentations. Once they start to get positive audience feedback (paying attention, nodding, laughing in the right places), the perception shifts and the confidence builds. After more than 30 years I’m still looking for the person who is fundamentally incapable of delivering a presentation competently. The key is to get them to believe in themselves and see themselves as the type of person who is comfortable, or even enjoys, presenting. After that, the sky’s the limit.
Do you want to look in the mirror and see a person who is confident to deliver a critical presentation? We can help...
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.