The biggest lie you probably believe about public speaking and presenting
Have you ever been to a workshop or presentation that was just so damn good you were sitting up straight, on the edge of your seat, hanging on every word?
The presenter owned the stage, was so natural, present, in control, and kept you ‘with them’ in every moment, every step of the way.
It’s a palpable experience – being in the presence of an exceptional presenter - a physical, tangible hum in the air, an energy that encompasses everyone in the room, raises the collective vibration and leaves you all ablaze with that bubbling excitement of inspiration and possibility.
The ability to create that atmosphere, to hold space for a group of people (whether it’s 5 or 500), to own the stage and confidently engage every single person within that audience is something that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has the potential to cultivate.
I can’t do that. I DEFINITELY can’t do that.
Some people are just naturals at presenting. They can just stand up and do it off the cuff. I don’t have the personality for it, you’ve got to be super extroverted and I just don’t have the charisma to pull something like that off. I’d just shrink in a big, on stage, ‘in the spotlight’ presentation. No way!
Any chance you’ve ever had some kind of dialogue along these lines with that mean little doubting voice in your head?
Well let me put that inner mean girl to rest and banish this big fat lie that so many of us seem to buy into.
Yes, some people do find it easier to stand up and present than others.
HOWEVER, no matter how comfortable you might be with presenting naturally it takes a helluva lot of practise to be really, really good, and practise is something that everyone can do, no matter how naturally it comes to you.
When Elizabeth Gilbert, author, creative and seriously fierce lady boss who speaks at events that draw crowds in their thousands, was asked to speak at one of Oprah’s live events she spent countless hours rehearsing her presentation.
She learnt the whole thing, by rote, and then repeated it to herself again, and again, and again, going on epically long walks while she ‘ran her lines’ over and over.
She worked with a speaking coach to hone her overall presentation and to refine everything down to perfection.
Then she practised some more.
She got to know her content so well, that she was able to stand up, in front of an audience of thousands, and confidently speak those words without her brain freaking out and getting in the way.
If you’ve ever seen Elizabeth Gilbert speak you’ll know the woman is amazing. She’s composed, confident and oh, so natural; but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.
When a speaker seems natural, and gives the impression of speaking off the cuff I would bet you a year’s supply of chai that it is anything but!
Secondly, your personality type doesn’t matter. So many fantastic presenters class themselves as introverts. I’m an introvert, (believe it or not) and I still really enjoy presenting, when I feel prepared, when I’ve done my homework and am super familiar with what I’m going to say and how I’m going to deliver it.
Public speaking is nerve wracking. Hell yes it is. But confidence can be developed and built up with one simple technique. Practise.
Very early in my career one of my mentors gave me a piece of advice that has been so beneficial. Whenever you’re given the opportunity to present – whether it’s giving a speech, running a training session or workshop, taking part in a presentation in a meeting, giving a welcome or ‘thank you’ – ALWAYS say yes.
When you’re running your own business, just as it is with a corporate career, presenting is an opportunity to build your personal brand, to increase visibility, to build reputation and demonstrate expertise. AND, it’s a chance to build your confidence.
No matter what the circumstances are, presenting is practise for presenting.
Next time you’re at a family event and someone has to give a short speech to say ‘happy birthday’/’congratulations’/’thank you all for coming’ put your hand up and give it a try.
Just like anything, the more you do it, the more confidence you’ll build and the easier it will become.
If you’re setting up a workshop, participating in an event, or stepping into the spotlight for a speaking gig the number 1, absolute MUST do, golden rule – you guessed it, PRACTISE.
Practise builds familiarity. Familiarity builds confidence. Confidence helps you to own the stage and deliver your presentation naturally. It allows your energy, enthusiasm and passion for what you’re talking about to shine through, and it’s that energy that catches your audience and draws them in.
It’s your passion that is captivating and contagious, that will leave your audience with that special hum of inspiration.
Being a fantastic presenter is not a rare gift endowed on a lucky few – it’s the result of good ol’ hard work, something we can all do.
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