Billionaire businessperson Warren Buffet gave this advice to a college student: “The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now — at least — is to hone your communication skills — both written and verbal. You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it.”
And if Mr Buffet gave me a dollar for every time I’ve frozen in a meeting, tanked a presentation or watched others do the same – I’d probably be a bajillionaire too!
After committing to work on my own presentation skills and coaching others for over a decade – I’ve now distilled it down to 3 reasons most presentations miss the mark. When it comes to public speaking, most are either anxious, unprepared or holding back… or more likely, they’re own unique mix of all three.
1. Being Anxious
Everyone’s anxiety level is different. Most are on a spectrum that starts at “I’d rather die than speak” and ends at “hand me the microphone and stand aside!” (I was a weird mixture of both – “hand me the microphone, so I can freeze when I see everyone looking at me”).
Some would freeze at the thought of an auditorium full of people, while others find that auditorium much more comfortable than speaking to a small group and still others can’t even bare to speak at their weekly team meeting without flushing beet red and shaking.
While they might describe themselves as having a fear of public speaking – it could be more accurately identified as a fear of failure, judgement or sometimes even a fear of success!
First Step to Take: REFOCUS yourself on your message, that is what your audience is focussed on.
Of the three reasons presentations miss the mark – this one is the EASIEST to fix. The simple answer is PREPARE.
I know many people who, if given a week to prepare, would ruminate, vacillate and procrastinate for the first 4 days and then use the adrenalin of an unmissable deadline to prepare the night before.
Others feel they present better when they … ‘wing it’.
There’s no gentle way to say this. Lack of appropriate preparation communicates a complete lack of respect for your audience, and the opportunity. Ouch.
People are busy. Ask yourself, did you come to listen and watch someone ‘half-ass’ their way through a presentation – reading from their notes or a powerpoint? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
First Step to Take: Know WHO you’re presenting to and WHY and start preparing NOW (not the night before).
3. Holding Back
If you’ve ever watched a presenter who looks like they’ve had a personality by-pass – chances are they’re holding back. Tell-tale signs might be a monotone voice, little or no gestures, minimal eye contact, low energy. This may be because they are anxious, it may be that they think they need to ‘act’ in a certain way or that it’s unsafe to say or show how they really feel.
As the ‘Father of Advertising’ David Ogilvy put it – you cannot bore someone into buying your product.
First Step to Take: Practice and upskill. Practice in the mirror, speak to your family, speak in your community group and whether it’s with your local Toastmasters Club or a Presentation Skills Coach – upskill, upskill, upskill.
Doing a great job and hoping someone notices, is not a very effective career strategy. The ability to present with confidence, clarity and charisma is a career and life-changer. The world needs more reasonable, engaging and uplifting voices, so please learn to SPEAK UP.
You can connect with Ruth here.