Want to speak as a leader who's totally in control? Discover this simple technique for becoming a comfortable, cool, and commanding speaker!
As a speaker, do you command respect—or are you a nervous wreck? And does it sometimes seem like there's no wiggle room between the two?
Lots of speakers and presenters would like to be the former, but too often find themselves feeling like the latter. Even when the executive in question is brilliant at what he or she does, that response isn't surprising. Professionals from any industry you care to name simply don't get in-depth, performance-based training in how to be an effective presenter.
I call it job security for speech coaches.
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So, a way to boost your comfort and cool, on the way to command:
The Key to Being a Successful Speaker: Just Talk
Let's take a look at a composite speaker, and examine what she-or-he is typically going through. She has a presentation to her company's C-suite or board. This is a high-level and naturally demanding audience. In other words, the situation is intimidating.
The speaker thinks he is "pretty good" when he's able to stay on topic. As soon as someone asks him a question, though, he becomes self-conscious and uneasy. That's when it becomes clear to everyone (at least in his mind) that he isn't up to speaking at this level.
In other words, it's a version of the Imposter Syndrome—this one triggered by the removal of her safety net. In this case, her PowerPoint deck and carefully prepared presentation are what keep her 'safe.' Knock away that prop, however, and things get desperate fast.
How to Help Yourself Connect with Your Audience
What our executive needs to learn, is that he shouldn't concern himself with 'presenting' at all. That's a recipe for disaster if you'll be speaking in a high-stakes environment and you think your speaking skills are deficient. The truth is, that you're just there to talk to listeners about a topic of mutual interest. The audience really does want to hear what you have to say.
If you're ready to file that advice under "Easier-Said-than-Done," here's an exercise that can help. I actually came across this solution by accident, when a client had forgotten to bring in his laptop containing the deck we'd been working on to get him ready for an important pitch.
In our speech coaching session, I asked him to simply talk to me as he made his pitch, without those slides. I was careful to describe this as just-in-this-room, make-all-the-mistakes-you-want practice. In other words, I was trying to put him at his ease. I also wanted to free him from his reliance on his slides while demonstrating his knowledge of the topic.
It worked spectacularly. The change was dramatic. Everything about his presentation was calmer, more focused, and attuned to his audience—in this case, me.
So try it yourself. Practice "just talking" about your topic without the straight jacket of your deck. Because here's the thing: what you show is never what persuades or moves an audience. It's always you talking (there's that word again), i.e., sharing your ideas.
Put off by Q & A? Remind yourself that questions and even challenges aren't hindrances. They're proof that listeners are still paying attention; and they're a chance to show that you really know your stuff.
Feeling that you have to GIVE A PRESENTATION is the nightmare. Simply talking is the magic.
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