Public speaking and presentations are opportunities to make more of ourselves.
Yet, many people who speak before groups become less of themselves at the lectern.
That's because the central nervous system struggles in the front of the room. When about to begin a presentation, you're trying to adjust to the attention, feeling the pressure to do well, and struggling with distractions, such as, "I hope my hair looks good."
To shine as a presenter, you need to exclusively focus on the delivery of your content and how the audience is responding to your message. Confidence is a great panacea. A strong speaking voice, congruent non-verbal signaling, and quality ad-libs can help. But confidence is not the default setting for most speakers. Instead, presenters become less like themselves on the speaking platform. Personalities dim and voices become quieter. Sparkling personalities lose their natural sheen. Facial expressions go blank. Hand gestures enhance communication in every day conversation, but even body language becomes muted on stage. Most presenters grip the sides of the lectern as if it were a life raft. How can you fix this to be more effective when giving presentations?
The first step when problem-solving is to understand the problem. Why do these undesirable things occur when presenting? What's the core issue? If it's the well-known "fear of public speaking," what can be done about it?
Small kids don't have this issue with presenting. Nearly all kids are natural performers.
But as we grow older and become socialized, we learn how to be embarrassed. We learn to feel bad when making mistakes, especially when goofing up in front of others. We are taught that talking to strangers is undesirable. Perhaps worst of all, most people never get any training or coaching in how to be impressive in front of the room.
The good news: Nearly all of the pitfalls of public speaking can be avoided.
In my experience as a presentation coach, the Occam's Razor or simplest way to improve your situation, is to be hyper-familiar with your topic. This comes from 10,000 hours of experience or strategic rehearsal or both.
If your presentations are important to you...
Content familiarity aside, anyone can achieve a reasonable comfort level in front of the room over time. Ever hear an older person claim to be nervous when speaking? But if your presentations are important to you and you'd like to improve sooner rather than later, consider getting an assessment of where you are and what it will take to level up. I do a complimentary consult that'll get you pointed in the right direction. I refer to the session as a "Breakthrough Call" because almost everyone gets a big "a-ha" during our time together.
Meanwhile, join my Present Like a Pro Facebook group where other smart presenters receive ongoing presentation tips. You'll get counsel on everything from PowerPoint tips to how to get paid for keynotes.
Hope to see you on a Zoom call and/or in the PLAP FB group!