Career Corner: Develop presence to improve presentations
Jacqui Harper author, coach and professional speaker shares her advice on how we can deliver better presentations by developing our presence and how to improve our confidence..
When it comes to presentations, do you think that some people have it and some don’t? WRONG! Everyone can deliver better presentations by developing presence.
How does presence help?
Presence is how people experience us: what they see, hear and feel about us. A positive presence will give you an unfair advantage when giving presentations. You will come across as a compelling speaker every time. The way to achieve this is to work on internal presence and external presence.
How do you improve internal presence?
Confidence is rooted in our internal presence: what’s going on inside our mind. It is our thoughts and beliefs. These thoughts include self-limiting beliefs that we’re often not aware of. They are triggered when we’re under pressure and can prevent us speaking at our best.
Typical beliefs that limit our potential in presentations include:
You’re born with the ability to present
I’m too shy
I’m not a performer
I’ll never be good enough
I’m not charismatic
Developing internal presence is about getting closer to the deep-level thinking that affects how we interact. Increasing self-awareness is the best strategy for this.
Journaling builds self-awareness. It’s not for everyone but it is one of the most effective tools. Get into the habit of writing down thoughts in a physical or digital notebook. Consider writing a journal for a month or two. Record all things to do with a presentation from the moment you get the assignment: the preparation, delivery, and what happened afterwards.
Regularly review the journal to notice your patterns of behaviour or themes around making presentations. Notice any triggers or negative thoughts ahead of presentations. Try to spot any self-limiting beliefs. Test those thoughts. Ask yourself what emotions or stories connect to those thoughts and assess how rational they are.
Use the insights from the journal to create new habits and strategies to become a better presenter.
How do you improve 'external presence'?
External presence is appearance, body language, voice and message. The purpose of external presence is to build trust and a strong connection to an audience. This creates the opportunity to influence.
The voice is crucial to presentations. It powers ideas, brings them alive and connects us to our audience. Voice includes vocal tonality and message.
How we sound really matters. Research tells us that audiences bond much quicker to speakers with vocal variation. These voices sound more attractive to audiences and the speakers are judged as more trustworthy and likeable.
The question is how effective is your voice? To speak with more vocal variation listen to recordings of yourself speaking and get feedback from colleagues and friends.
Use emphasis to increase the range in your voice. This also increases how much the audience understands. Not all words are created equal. Give different vocal weight to selected words. Some words and themes need to be highlighted more than others. Use your voice to make your presentation clear and compelling.
Common presentation pitfalls
Dazzling with detail. Ask yourself how much detail they really need to know.
Lack of awareness of personal impact. How is your voice? How is your body language?
Not connecting to an audience. Without connection positive outcomes are unlikely. Improve connection with eye contact, the relevance of the message, how you illustrate ideas and language.
Striving for perfection. Forget it. Focus on forming a relationship with an audience and building trust. The delivery skills need to be good but they don’t need to be perfect.
Jacqui’s book ‘Executive Presentations’ was a finalist in the Business Book Awards 2019. She is a visiting professor at INSEAD and an executive coach. A member of the Professional Speaker’s Association, Jacqui is a popular conference speaker and host. She was previously a TV news anchor for the BBC and chat show host.
Released On 8th Jul 2019