Whilst we might know exactly what we mean when trying to convey a message to others, there are many times when the true meaning simply gets lost in translation. It can be easy to assume that some people are just blessed with having “the gift of the gab” and that those who don’t have this natural confidence in talking to others will have to work a lot harder in order to be noticed...
If worries about being understood properly are stopping you from contributing your ideas, or your style of presentation doesn’t seem to engage people the way it should, this article will help you.
1. Breathe and believe
Confidence in yourself is an important asset in presenting well. We all want to be the kind of person who is listened to, and whose ideas are acted upon by others, so if you don’t feel like you get the reactions you seek when presenting, it may be a lack of self-belief that is holding you back.
After all, if you don’t have confidence in yourself, then why should anyone else? Doubting your own capabilities can be the deciding factor that separates you from your more confident colleagues, so start taking small steps to improve your own self-belief. Learn a few simple deep breathing exercises to pace yourself and maintain calm.
Consider your many skills and the experience you have worked hard to gain throughout your career, and reassure yourself that you are worth listening to.
2. Get used to 'being present' in your space
Do you experience increasing levels of anxiety in the days and hours leading up to a presentation? Whatever else you might hear or have read on the subject, being fully prepared is the best way to conquer this anxiety - everything else should come second. Part of preparing fully for a presentation is getting adjusted to the space you will be in before you go to pitch.
So do whatever you can to get some private rehearsal time at the venue of your presentation to acclimatise to your surroundings, and the impact they will have on your audience and the way you address them.
Play around with three or four points of focus, including the stage you’ll stand on, and at each one, unwind by taking a big diaphragmatic breath and physically stretching yourself like you would when getting up in the mornings.
Taking this brief timeout will steady your heart rate, refire your consciousness and fuel your speaking voice. It’s the human equivalent of switching off and back on again - resetting yourself allows you to carry on at a calm and steady pace.
3. Follow the 'voice' methodology
I devised a process a while back that is designed to help to rouse your self-confidence and lay a strong foundation that will support you through an engaging and informative speech. Whether you’re presenting to a conference hall, a meeting or even a video conference, the same principles apply.
I call this easy five-step solution the Business Voice Methodology and it is made up of simple and practical actions to help you sound as good as you think in any scenario.
Start by acknowledging the importance of being understood by the people listening to you, as a priority over feeling like an expert in your own mind.
By putting the focus on the audience rather than yourself, you open yourself up to their experience as your listener, and how best to adapt your approach to communicate with them in the most efficient and successful way possible.
Throughout life, almost everything we learn is acquired by observing our surroundings and context, and communicating effectively is exactly the same.
You don’t have to research and read lots about communicating with others, as the most powerful way of learning what works is just by observing the ways in which real people talk to each other in different settings.
Taking the opportunity to pay attention to the interactions of others, and what works to communicate effectively and what doesn’t, can really pay off when trying to improve presentation skills.
You cannot rely on words to carry your message all by themselves. For the best chances of convincing people and your words having the desired effect on them, you have to make some careful considerations about the way you come across when you speak.
Could a particular tone of voice, or emphasis on certain words, transform the meaning of your message and communicate it in a more accurate way?
Could your body language and stance be countering the message your words are giving? Give some thought to the compatibility of your message and the way you come across.
Your style of presentation and your personality are not the same entity, so don’t get bogged down in feeling that you have to present in a way that perfectly reflects your personality outside of work. We communicate at our very best when we retain our personal authenticity, and put it to good use.
So rather than have a business hat and a social hat, consider what skills or tendencies your authentic self could adopt in the work environment to make the best version of yourself.
It’s the same as dressing up smart for a black tie do: you don’t look like you did when you rolled out of bed that morning, but you have made the most of your best qualities and added a few embellishments to round the whole look off.
In presenting, these little additional features may be as simple as daring to make authentic eye contact with your audience, or just smiling.
Finding an effective communication style is trial and error. Have the courage to get things wrong, reflect, improve and move on.
Stop self-sabotaging yourself!
A positive mindset and following these three tips will ensure you ‘Unlock Your Business Voice’ and will guarantee you sound as good as you think!
As with many things, experimentation is the best way to identify the best way of presenting to an audience. So dedicate some time to trial and error, and feel comfortable in trying something that may not work out.
Only by trying things, judging their effectiveness, and moving on without bitterness or disappointment will you settle on a truly authentic presenting style that is comfortable for you and engaging for your audience.