If you don’t class yourself as a ‘natural presenter’ I’m guessing you’ve probably looked at good presenters and wondered how on earth they do it. Perhaps you wish you too had their natural gift. Or perhaps you accept that you’ll never be able to come across as relaxed and in control, but you stumble along in the hope the content of your presentations will bail you out.
Well, here’s two bits of news: First, natural ‘born presenters’ are extremely rare; second, most ‘natural’ presenters have learned how to do it and understand the value of preparation and practise.
Steve Jobs: Was he a natural, or did he have to work hard to be as polished as he was?
We can all become good presenters
I’ve spent many years watching presenters and helping them to hone their skills. While there’s no doubt that some people take to it more easily than others, I’ve yet to meet a complete natural. I’ve also yet to meet anyone that I couldn’t help to become a more convincing and persuasive presenter by mastering a few simple techniques and thought processes.
This actually matters a great deal. Often people remember the impression that a presenter leaves much more than what they actually said. Yes, your presentation content has to have substance and validity; but it is often the delivery that leaves people with the impression that you know what you are talking about.
The first positive thought process is to remember that the audience is on your side. Even if you are pitching for a contract, the audience is interested in what you have to say and wants to understand your message. Nobody enjoys watching a presenter die on their feet. The breakthrough often comes once you realise that, as the presenter, you are the expert in the room.
The second positive thought process is to tell yourself that you are going to enjoy delivering the presentation. You will be in command of your subject, you will be relaxed, and you will enjoy it.
We have the capacity to convince ourselves that we are all sorts of things. Often this works in a negative way. Find somebody who is convinced that they are clumsy, remind them of this ‘fact’ and then ask them to carry a cup of black coffee across a white carpet while everyone watches; what do you think will happen? On the other hand, great sports coaches are often successful because they have the ability to encourage positive thoughts and make people believe they can achieve more.
Often, what we believe to be the case becomes the reality – so convince yourself first, that you are a confident and relaxed presenter.
How can you expect to carry an audience with you if you don’t display energy and passion for your subject? This doesn’t mean becoming something you’re not, because the audience will see you as phoney if you do. It means taking your natural style, and adding authority and presence through your tone and body language.
Talk to the audience, not the room
Engage with the audience early – in the first 60 seconds preferably – get them on your side and keep them there. Explain concisely how what you’re about to say is going to benefit them.
Remove barriers – get out from behind the lectern or desk. You can then move around more and have more eye contact. Use positive body language and encourage the audience to focus on you.
One way that good presenters appear in control is to speak more slowly than normal. There’s no better way to demonstrate that you are calm and confident in what you are doing than to speak in an unhurried way. It also gives people time to absorb what you say.
Use pauses often, especially after saying anything important. This emphasizes that what you just said is something they should pay particular attention to. Repeat it if it’s really important. Whilst paused make strong eye contact with as many people as possible – let them acknowledge your eye contact, then move on to more of the audience – this is very powerful!
Practise, practise, practise
The biggest key to being a natural presenter is to know your presentation thoroughly and to practise what you are going to say. Rehearse the presentation from end to end at least 4-6 times (more if you can!) and ideally in front of an audience. You’ll then know the material so well that you can focus on how you say things rather than on what to say.
Make the rehearsal as realistic as possible – deliver the presentation in front of friends or family or look at yourself in a mirror. It might feel embarrassing, but you can iron out what sounds good and what doesn’t and change phrases that don’t sound quite right. You will also see those idiosyncrasies that you have – hands in pocket, going “um” a lot, shuffling or pacing and you can then work on reducing them – I didn’t say getting rid of them altogether, just get them under control.
Once you’ve done the presentation in front of friends, family or a mirror, doing it in front of a live audience is relatively straightforward – honestly!
My top tips:
The Bid Coach helps people from businesses of all sizes to deliver more persuasive presentations and win more contracts through bids and tenders. To find out how he can help you or your team call him on 01963 240555 or visit www.thebidcoach.com
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.