The times when bosses and top directors were as unapproachable as royals, barricaded behind the heavy doors and guarded by fearless secretaries are long gone. Nowadays, top executives are public figures, with all advantages and disadvantages of such roles. As a top leader you have no alternative but to accept public appearances. The more you enjoy or, at least, tolerate them, the better. They are a part of your personal success and the success of your company. And what about public speaking? As a top executive, you are supposed not only being seen by public but also being heard by people.
Public speaking is a mastery, an art, which combines the elements of information, persuasion and entertainment. Great public speaker is a great entertainer. Sometimes the audiences remember the words of great speakers, sometimes their gestures and appearance, but mostly, - the combination of what looks like the extraordinary skills of performance and emotions the speaker has captivated the audience with.
The best known textbook example is the first televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon. Although experts acknowledged that Nixon was better prepared for the debate and had deeper knowledge, Kennedy won the audiences over by his appearance and his manner of talking, smiling and looking straight into the camera.
I would like to share with you some thoughts and observations, which I believe can be crucial for the success of public presentation.
#1 How to structure a presentation
First of all, it is a structure of successful presentation. While preparing your presentation and thinking about the optimal structure, ask yourself the following questions:
What is it that I am willing to achieve with my presentation? Do I want to influence the audience and lead them into a certain direction?
What is my BIG IDEA? No, the more is not the better. You need just ONE big idea.
Afterwards, you can go through the main body of presentation.
Don’t forget about an appealing opening, followed by the ‘hook’ - something that catches people’s interest and holds it.
Fill in your presentation with personal stories and examples. This brings the audience closer to you.
# 2 Fear or confidence
It is true that repeated practice helps to overcome the fear of large audiences, video recording and podium discussions. Yet, even an experienced speaker, who looks confident and natural in front of a particular audience or a medium, may struggle with some ‘issues’ in an unknown or unusual setup. For example, one can feel confident in front of hundreds of people within their own company or group, but will become scared to death to speak at clients events, in front of a camera or during the ‘alpha’ driven podium discussions.
What is important here is to make a distinction between a natural (and positive!) ‘adrenaline rush’ - a feeling of excitement and stimulation before a public presentation - and the state of stress, anxiety or even panic, related to the fear of speaking publicly. The latter can be of various intensity.
# 3 Congruent presentation
Ideally, your presentation should be as congruent as possible, meaning that all its aspects and nuances should be in harmony with each other, reinforcing your key points and making your presentation memorable and distinguished. These aspects and nuances include not only the content and structure of your presentation, but also your body language, tone of your voice, posture, eye contact and facing expression. You achieve a natural congruence of these components when your gestures, moves and expressions support and reinforce your words, without any hint of dissonance or distraction.
As any other situation, public speaking does not need to provoke any discontentment. If it does and you can’t see any obvious and immediate explanation, it might be that such a reaction is provoked by a deeper constraining belief. Some examples of constraining beliefs are: I feel lost when I am on the stage; audience ignores me or finds my presentation boring; I am afraid to be criticized or look stupid.
Such beliefs block you and bring you into a state of stress, when your body and mind get strained to such an extent that you get fixed on a particular issue and can’t think about anything else anymore. Unless you understand and tackle your constraining belief, you will experience the same state of stress and fear every time when you need to speak publicly. Even if your stress is practically undetectable from outside, it will ‘eat you up’ from within. Nobody should deal with such mental and physical suffering, don’t you think? If you knew that there are techniques and exercises, which can help you to reshape your state and help to deliver a powerful and sound presentation, would you find it valuable investing into them?
# 4 Nonverbal language
And don’t forget about nonverbal language. Have you ever realised that 90% of your success in front of the audience is not related to what you say but how you say it. Chances of winning your audience over are high if you are confident and believe in yourself; if you radiate warmth and friendly personality.
Give the absolutely best of your ability to your audience - body language, tone of voice, eye contact, fluent speech - and the audience will love you and will want to hear you again. Make sure to pay attention to the speed of your presentation. Important message is delivered slowly and clearly for the better comprehension. You can speak faster when delivering information of the secondary importance. Your movements are equally important. There are two types of movements: chaotic and purposeful. Only the latter one is congruent with the content and context of your presentation. Purposeful movements are the sign of confidence, whereas chaotic movements signalise uncertainty.
You may divide the time you allocate for the preparation of your presentation wisely. It would be advisable to invest around ⅔ of your time into the preparation of the non-verbal side of your presentation: posture, movements on stage, tone of voice, etc. Unfortunately, your presentation wouldn’t be of great success if you prepare only its content. Actually, you may need to invest the time into the preparation of your non-verbal skills only once. Afterwards, you may reapply them each time you have to speak publicly, spending less time on the preparation and harvesting the fruits of your successful presentations.
# 5 Use your imagination
Another good technique to prepare a successful presentation is to go through the exercise, which requires involvement of your imagination. Try to imagine that you feel confident and natural on stage throughout all the stages of your presentation. Imagine? Then try to understand how exactly would you feel, act and move during such a presentation? How would you speak? What sort of feedback would you like to get about your presentation? Step into this image, enjoy your presentation and your performance. Then imagine that your presentation has just finished and you have just delivered your best performance ever. Feel the joy and excitement of it. Mentally, look back and assess how have you overcome all the obstacles that usually hold you back while delivering your best presentation. This is your day, this is your performance.
After this exercise, you might find it easier to connect to a positive vision of yourself. If not, don’t worry, you might have found some hidden potential, which you can unfold with the help of a trainer and coach.
Here, at GrossLeadership we are happy to welcome you and help to resolve your issues. I offer individual and group coaching. I can look at your underlying problems and constraining beliefs and help you to transform them into positive and confident thinking and acting. I can go with you through the stages of presentation to improve your public speaking skills or focus on non-verbal components of presentation, helping you to choose an appropriate body language, posture and tone of voice. Next public speaking worksop will take place on October 17th. It would be my pleasure to welcome you there.
I trust this information has been useful for you and you’ve got some things to think about.
If you are interested to get more information or to enrol for the individual coaching of your public speaking skills, you can find more information on website.
Remember that I have developed an online course on how your state of mind affects your productivity, which you can join right now. You can also take a look at the self-awareness test.
If you know someone who might benefit from the value of these materials, please, feel free to share them with your colleagues and friends.
I wish you inspiration and success in your public presentations!
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…”
(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)
We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!
With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.