Think for a moment about presentations you've listened to in the past.
All of us hear speakers in a variety of settings. These could include
in neighborhood groups, school settings, social organizations, and often
in your work life. Would it surprise you to know that many, many people
list public speaking at the top of their list of experiences they dread
the most? That's right. Many people are just terrified of public speaking
of any kind. They are unable to control the nervousness which often comes
with public speaking. They stumble when asked to write a speech. They
don't understand the techniques available to them to overcome the fear
of public speaking. Yet, most of us do have to present information
orally at one time or another, and often in a work place setting.
Many people find work place presentations to be the most challenging
as well as the most significant ones we may be called upon to deliver.
Why? Probably we realize what may be at stake. We want to seem calm, authoritative,
well-informed, and smooth while presenting business information. Yet,
many people have no idea how to project the correct image through body
language, through how the presentation is structured, and through how
the speech is written, and through how they deliver it. Most of all, they
do not know how to overcome that very real fear of public speaking. That's
the bad news. The good news is that these are all techniques which you
can learn. Don't assume that the wonderful presenters you've
heard have always been wonderful presenters. They have not. Superior presentation
skills are learned, just as many other skills are.
One way to look at presentation skills is to think about the presentations
you have witnessed yourself. I invite you to think not about the great
presenters, but the ones you found lacking. Some of the most common "presentations
pitfalls," are fortunately fixable. Let's get started.
The Techno Disaster: This is a presenter who is attempting
to use presentation technology with which he is not fully familiar.
He may fumble with switches, sizing of his slides, or even blown-out
bulbs in the overhead projector. And while he is bumbling around, what
is his audience doing and thinking? They may feel sorry for him, but
they are quickly losing interest, and they are regarding this presenter
as anything but an expert. Regardless of how well-informed he may be
about the material he's trying to present, he's really damaged
his credibility with his audience.
The Detail Man: These presenters are so sure you will be fascinated
with their topic that they have---literally----dozens and dozens of
slides in the presentation. The detail they present is far, far, more
than the audience has need of. And if the information is quite technical,
the Detail Man will lose his audience after 3 or 4 slides. Too bad,
because he really does have information they need.
Miss Helpless: Well, this could be Mr. Helpless, too. This
is the presenter who seems to need help with everything. She does not
know where the light switches are. She can't adjust her equipment.
She drops things. She loses her place. You get the idea. Is this presenter
credible? What do you think?
The Pacer: Many presenters are absolutely terrified of public
speaking, and coping with this fear is handled in many, many creative
ways. And would you believe that most of these people are not at all
aware that they are wearing a path in the rug? The audience is far more
interested in watching this presenter stalk back and forth than in what
he or she has to say.
The Bundle of Nerves: These poor presenters completely distract
their audiences with their odd body language and stumbling presentation
style. The Bundle of Nerves is a twitchy, jumpy, painfully nervous presenter!
Anyone trying to listen to him is often completely distracted by his
very obvious terror at being a presenter. And the value of the presentation
may well be lost in the discomfort the audience feels watching the discomfort
of the presenter.
The Noisy Presenter: Presenters are supposed to make "noise"
right? Well, they are supposed to speak. But they are not supposed to
jingle, click, rattle, or snap. Some nervous presenters rattle the change
or keys in their pockets, click a ball-point pen on and off, rattle
their jewelry, or even snap gum! Again, the value of the information
being presented is lost in the cloud of noises and distractions this
presenter provides his audience.
The Challenger: This presenter comes to the front of the room
wearing a very large chip on his or her shoulder. His presentation
is quite obviously a thinly veiled, often aggressive, demonstration
of his point of view. This presenter is not wearing his heart on his
sleeve; he's wearing his aggression or "attitude" on his sleeve.
Again, the message, regardless of how important, it lost in the distraction
of his attitude. Too bad.
The Clueless: This is a presenter who knows less about her
subject than does her audience. No matter how valuable the information
she has to present, her audience will disregard her as soon as they
realize how ill-prepared she is.
The "Authority:" This speaker handles his own nervousness
by high-handed and even aggressive behavior toward his audience. Audience
members who ask questions he does not know the answer to may actually
be embarrassed or maligned in his responses. Some "Authorities"
may even make up answers when asked questions they can't answer.
The Whisperer: These poor folks are obviously so terrified
by their presenter roles that they are actually sort of paralyzed by
the experience. This person quickly telegraphs to his audience that
he is terrified, and he speaks in such a low voice that his audience
cannot hear him at all. And if they ask him to elaborate or speak up,
this further terrifies him. The audience becomes more and more uncomfortable
themselves, and the poor presenter loses whatever eye contact he may
have once had. And the information he had to communicate? It's
lost, of course.
When you think about these "Top Ten" presentation ills, it's
pretty obvious that all of these problems are within the control
of the presenter. Many of them have to do with command of the material
in the presentation. Some of them have to do with familiarity with the
room and equipment itself. And several of them have to do with fear.
There is some good news, here, however. The common antidote for all 10
of these presentation "ills" is preparation. Think about it.