Presentation Skills: The Modern Presenter

The modern presenter has much in his favour – sophisticated gadgetry, vocal amplification and little to be genuinely afraid of. After all, no much how much your audience dislike you, the wounds they’re likely to inflict are to your pride alone.

Having said this, the modern presenter also has obstacles to overcome; many of which directly relate to over reliance on gadgetry, amplification and a lack of real life saving urgency behind the speech. If you’re likely to be lynched for saying the wrong thing, you certainly give your speech a lot of thought!

So maybe today’s presenters and public speakers have it too easy?

The confusing thing is, for most public speakers, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. As you walk to the meeting room or take to the stage, you often feel as if you are going to meet your maker. As if, with one misplaced word or stutter, you will be condemned to spend an afternoon being eaten by lions.  Our fears are deep rooted: the perceived risk of social shame, of potential embarrassment and excommunication remain very real and potent.

Presenting and public speaking is one of the few arenas in modern life where we still feel at risk of ruining our reputations. You run the risk of giving yourself away, of exposing your tiny nucleus of ignorance, of appearing as lost as a child in front of a room full of business bods.

We are not used to these survival pressures anymore, so when we do experience the adrenaline rush and accompanying palpitations, it can feel like meltdown.

As a presenter the first thing is to put your presentation into perspective: you are in no danger, the audience are your friends – even if they don’t look like they are, the worst that can happen is that you end up laughing at yourself for getting in a muddle.

Now inject some urgency!

Once you have calmed down, it’s important not to become so placid that you flat line, and flat line your audience in the process.

There’s no imminent danger to spur you on; you need to use your imagination to manufacture some zip.  Performance energy is an elevated state of dynamism which lifts the audience from their slumber and drags them along in your wake.

A handy presenting tool to help you pick up the pace is the ‘Magic If’.

Simply ask the question ‘what if..?’

‘What if the outcome of this presentation transforms my company’s fortunes?’

‘What if this presentation secures me work for the next year?’

‘What if my audience believe in me and this idea improves hundreds of lives?’

The magic if is magical because it opens up the imagination and helps you access the power that imagination can unleash.

By asking ‘what if’ you begin to connect with the bigger picture of your presentation, and start to think about the potential greater meaning of achieving your goals. You also inject some much need urgent performance energy into the mix.

Define Your Presentation Goals Right at the Outset

In order for your presentation to succeed in reaching your goals, you need to know what your goals are.

Begin with you overall aim, the super objective of your presentation.

Think personally: what do you want the presentation to do for your life and career?

Think globally: what impact do you want your presentation to have on the world?

Think locally: what do you want your immediate audience to think, feel and do following your presentation?

Next, narrow your super objective down to more specific sub-objectives.

Break your presentation into sections and give each section a single simple objective.

For example, your introduction objective may be ‘to lay out the facts clearly’ or ‘to paint a picture of the future.’

Defining clear objectives for each part of your presentation will keep you on a clear course and help the audience follow your path.

David Windle