Communicating effectively is one of the most powerful tools any professional can have. The way you speak to someone one-on-one and in front of a group sets the foundation for how people perceive you. Do they take you seriously? Do you command their attention? Or does your vocal inflection or body language turn them off? People subconsciously make judgments about you in a millisecond before you’ve even finished your first sentence.
But I Worked All Night On My Power Point
Good speakers have been around for a really long time, certainly way before Power Point. Just think about history’s greatest orators. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Winston Churchill all knew how to reach out and captivate their audiences. So did Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Jim Jones. You get the point. Without any modern technical devices, these people inspired and motivated masses for both good and evil. That’s how important presentation skills are. Were these people born with those skills? No, they learned them and they practiced. A lot.
So, how would you characterize your propensity for public speaking? Almost everyone falls into one of the following categories as a presenter:
- Avoider: those who avoid speaking at all
- Resister: those who resist speaking but can do it if forced
- Reluctants: those who don’t mind speaking but don’t seek out opportunities
- Enthusiasts: those who actively seek opportunities to speak
In general, the Enthusiasts are going to become better presenters quicker simply because they put themselves out there more often. Conversely, you might think Avoiders would have difficulty with presenting. Not necessarily so. Some of the world’s most successful people are self-described introverts who have to present often and in the most visible arenas: Bill Gates, Candice Bergen and Warren Buffet, just to name a few.
We are constantly competing for our audience’s attention. Studies show that at any given moment only about 20 percent of people in an audience are actively listening. So do you start adding all sorts of multi-media to make them pay attention? What is that “X Factor” that makes certain speakers stand out?
Not sure about you, but I spend an inordinate amount of time watching TED Talks. The first time I saw one was because I was interested in the topic of the talk. But I quickly realized all of the speakers featured on TED Talks are so engaging. They all have impressive knowledge or expertise on the content they deliver. However, much more compelling was the authenticity of their delivery. They often times showed a vulnerable, honest, raw piece of themselves that landed me smack in the palm of their hands. I’m not suggesting you get up at your next presentation and spill your guts on personal issues at home or on the job. Instead, think about the way you speak, the tone of your voice, the body language you portray and if you are the same person on stage or in front of your staff as you are when you engage with them one on one. Take a look at my favorite TED Talks that will get you pumped up for your next presentation.
Taking an Honest Look
Aside from your colleagues, friends or family, what kind of feedback have you received on your presentation skills? Have you ever seen yourself doing a presentation on video?
Taking an honest look at your level of engagement with audiences is a tough first step for many but it’s really the only way to improve. That’s where Walk West comes in. Companies of all sizes bring in our team to train executive leadership, mid-level managers and every position between. Our workshops are tailored to each client’s specific needs and combine message development, body language, vocal delivery with multiple interactive exercises. The most important element is the on-camera work. We videotape parts of the training for immediate playback. And it works. Over the last seven years of leading these workshops, we have seen that the on-camera mock presentations in a friendly, learning environment deliver the best results for improvement. We lay the foundation for each person to maximize his or her potential to become confident, skilled presenters.
Are you ready for your next moment in the spotlight?
By Sharon Delaney McCloud, Managing Partner & Founder