Master The Uncertainty Of Presentations

Why try to fool ourselves? Presenting to a group is fraught with uncertainty. If you want to know exactly what will happen at every moment, you’d be better off hiding in the closet. Here’s the secret for feeling confident in every situation…

In spite of extreme risks and rampant uncertainty, giving presentations and speaking in public are a part of every professional’s life. Certainly as you progress in your career, you can expect to give more presentations. And each public speaking event is likely to present more challenges and more uncertainties than the last one.

What’s the best way to cope with the unknowns?

Hmmm… does pushing the variables under the rug work?

Nope.

Let’s see. How about sneaking out the side door and letting someone else deal with butterflies and nervous jitters?

Not if you want to rise to the top.

Face the facts. The best coping strategy is not ignorance. Or avoidance. Yet, many professionals use these strategies when it comes to presenting and speaking to groups.

There is an alternative.

Learn and use a systematic approach to build remarkable presentations. Follow a simple plan to produce exciting and engaging talks. The big mistake that many subject matter experts make is: heading into a presentation without a systematic process.

No wonder the alternatives of hiding or avoiding look so attractive.

Just about everything that works well in business is a system. You have a system for strategic planning, project management, and sales efforts. Why wouldn’t you have an equally thought through system for presenting?

The only reason that consistently pops up for NOT having a presentation system is: assigning ‘presentations’ into a category of ‘unimportant.’

If one believes that presenting is not a valuable use of time, then it would make sense to not have a system for doing it.

But that’s just foolish. One 5-minute presentation in front of the right people could do a whole lot more for your career than 5 years behind a desk. You could get a promotion, seal a deal, or get funding for your dream project. One presentation could unlock doors that would never be touched if you remain hidden deep in research.

Just last week I coached a woman who was struggling with this very issue. She had so many ideas for her 1-hour talk, that she could have easily written a 700-page book. Without a proven process, she spent hours dissecting ideas, jumping from one topic to the next.

In a short time together, we whittled down the massive volume to a few key concepts and a single theme. Instead of tearing her hair out, she was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

“This process was incredibly helpful! I never could have done it without you.”

Presenting in public can be scary and daunting. There are unknowns and risks. People may sit in stony silence. Participants may ask uncomfortable questions. Problems may emerge that you aren’t sure how to answer.

But with a solid system to plan your story, share your ideas, and guide interaction…you will feel ready to take on the unknown. Interested in building your confidence and growing your presentation skills?

Three Steps To Chill Out and Be Present

There are so many things we have to… and need to do… and want to do… that it is easy to jam pack our to-do list, our schedule and our life with busy-work. BUT it is necessary to do so? You may be saying “Yes, of course it is. How else am I going to get things done?” Well, that depends on what you have to get done.

If you are a do-er and an action-taker-and dare I say ‘perfectionist’-it is very easy to get caught up in the doing of it all. But where does living your life like you want it fit in? It really doesn’t because you are so busy being in the future about what you have to get done and feel you should be doing that you forget to live in the here and now.

My dad had a saying, well he actually had two that are relevant to share with you: “One day at a time” and “One thing at a time“. He was good at saying “I’ll be with you in a moment, right now I’m finishing this.” Meanwhile my mother and I are racing around doing (and not finishing) ten things to his finished one. I know for sure, by my own experience and those of my friends and clients, that when your attention is not in one place, neither are you. You simply cannot give whatever you are doing justice if you are not fully present.

Have you ever spilled a beverage, dropped something, banged into the corner of your desk, or stubbed your toe while you were trying to do something else? That’s being in the future (or the past). And oh yes, the spilled beverage on your carpet, the shattered screen on your dropped smart phone or the stubbed toe absolutely brings you into the present in a very fast way! It’s a rude reminder that you need to slow down, take a breath and maybe take a break.

I had a client who woke up one morning, got out her cereal bowl and her juice glass, and before she realized what she was doing the bowl was full of cider. She was upset and beating herself up over this. It actually threw off her entire day and when I asked her what was going on the moment before she poured the cider, she said she was thinking about her day and all that she had to do and what she wasn’t going to finish. And so there you have it: when we are not present, we can’t fully be mindful of what we are doing.

Would you like to experience fewer mishaps and mistakes throughout your day? Do you want to accomplish things and have them done right the first time? Be with yourself and not 10 steps ahead.

Here are three quick and easy ways for you to check in with how you feel and be more mindful and present in the moment:

  • Take a breath. Do you feel frazzled? Simply stop moving. Sit or stand still and breathe in to the count of 5 (slowly), then hold for a count of 2 and let your breath out for a count of 5, pausing for another count of 2. Try it right now – don’t you feel better?
  • Look around you. Are you jumpy and anxious? Look at where you are and what’s near you. Name what comes into your vision and give it a moment’s thought. The dog, “Oh, he’s actually snoring in his sleep”; the knickknack you picked up on vacation and what a fun time you had; the clouds in the sky and the shape they appear to you. Small distractions will settle your thoughts.
  • Change your view. Do you need to get out of your office? Do you need to go outside? Sometimes stopping what you are doing and taking a break is essential to help you be more mindful. Whatever it is, do it. Just five minutes can do wonders for your focus.

Follow the above tips and you’ll be mindful and in the present moment in no time (without stubbing your toe). You’ll be happier, more productive and relaxed too

Mind the Three Ps For Effective Presentations – Posture, Presence and Projection

Effective presenters pay close attention to the three Ps. They make sure that their posture is erect, their presence is self-confident, and their projection is loud, but not too loud, and clear. They also use body language that enhances their message.

There are three elements that contribute to an effective presenter’s platform, or stand-up training, effectiveness. The first is posture: how you physically carry yourself. Do you stand erect, with your shoulders comfortably back and head up- or do you hunch your shoulders and shrink into yourself? Your posture has a direct impact on how your audience will perceive you (presence) and how easily they will be able to hear and understand you (projection).

The second is presence: the impression of your personality. You can appear professional, self confident, calm, and approachable. Or you can appear uncertain, anxious, distant, and humorless. It depends on your posture, your tone of voice, your willingness to smile, your comfort standing in front of people, your general or “on-stage” personality, your sense of humor, your choice of words, and your joy and/or belief in what you are doing.

The third is projection: the range and clarity of your voice. Some presenters are easy to hear and understand. Their words are loud and clear enough to distinguish their meaning. Other presenters speak softly or too rapidly, slurring syllables and making it difficult to hear and understand what they are saying.

Your posture has a great bearing on your ability to project. If you hunch over and constrict your diaphragm, it is almost impossible to get a deep breath and expel it in strong and carrying tones. However, if you stand comfortably centered and erect, and speak from your diaphragm, you will be able to bounce your voice off a far wall!

After you have taken the trouble to research and design interesting and effective learning content and activities, why would you want to unwittingly sabotage it by appearing meek and uncertain, and swallowing your words so that no one can hear them? The simplest way to check your three P’s is to have someone videotape a short presentation. Typically, people are pleasantly surprised when they play back their tape. In addition, if there is a need to polish one of the P’s, they have immediate and useful feedback.

Body language (how you look and move) can either enhance or undermine your message. Good body language will help you appear confident and knowledgeable. Poor body language will interfere with your message and your credibility.

For more effective body language communication, fight the urge to:

  • Lean into a stationary microphone (use a lavaliere microphone instead, and remember to turn it off during private moments…);
  • Stand poker straight or immobile, or do the opposite- rock or sway in place, or pace (yes, Tom Peters paced- and it made us dizzy!;
  • Use a single gesture repeatedly, or use obviously practiced gestures;
  • Chew gum or suck on candy (we really do notice!)- unless you are using a lozenge to keep from coughing, in which case, explain that to your audience;
  • Lean on or grip the lectern white-knuckled, as if holding on for dear life;
  • Look at the floor, or close your eyes;
  • Hide behind the audiovisual equipment, or turn your back to the audience;
  • Take deep sighs;
  • Play with your clothing, adjust body parts or undergarments, or lose your undergarments!
  • Shuffle your notes unnecessarily, or click your pen or laser pointer on and off;
  • Crack your knuckles, examine or bite your fingernails, clean your ears, or perform any other body care activity!
  • Cross your arms in front of your chest;
  • Twirl or pat your hair, or play with your jewelry (that includes you, too, guys!);
  • Jangle change or keys in your pockets; or
  • Whisper, whimper, mumble, or shout.

The next time you give a presentation, pay attention to your posture, your presence and your projection. Remember that your body language will either enhance or undermine your message, so stay poised and in control.