Public speaking is an area in which many people lack confidence and I often find this same issue with some of my coaching clients. A lack of confidence is generally due to a lack of practice in an area or a previous bad experience that has impacted us negatively. I often have clients who tell me they have a presentation coming up that they are not prepared for and are quite eager to use the coaching session to do some coaching around preparation.
Preparing for a presentation is not just about the content of the presentation and the delivery. I look at the holistic picture of what the client wants to achieve from that experience and run through all aspects of the event.
How it plays out?
A client of mine has a pattern of presenting at a conference or meeting and then over analyzing their presentation after; self-sabotaging themselves by picking up on all the things they did wrong or didn’t do. This becomes a negative feedback loop and impacts their preparation for the next presentation. In helping this client prepare for an upcoming speaking spot I asked them what they wanted to get out of the event overall. I also asked what exactly occurred with the self-sabotaging behaviour and what the triggers were. The essence of it was about lost opportunities and a perception of a lack of perfection in their performance. We then looked at all the ways the client could leverage the opportunities at the event and lift their performance while managing their perfectionism to a realistic scale benchmarked against other people presenting. The essence of the exercise was to help the client prepare thoroughly so nothing could be left to query or question afterwards. The client said their overall aim was to raise their profile with that particular group of individuals for potential future job or relationship opportunities and to come across as being an industry expert. I encouraged the client to think about what the audience expected of them to discover any gaps.
Networking and venue
To maximize the event we discussed being able to get a list of all the people attending in order to target who they wanted to network with during the conference. In order to understand the venue the client requested information from the venue so they knew the size of the stage, microphone procedure and screen set up.
The body language
We all know what it is like to watch and listen to a boring speaker. The fact that we only listen to 7% of the words being spoken and the other 93% of what we take in is related to the speakers voice tone, speed, tempo, pitch and the way they hold and move their body (physiology) makes the body language and vocal use essential. To prepare my client we did role modelling using narratives where they played with their pitch of voice, vocal expression, use of body language, walking the stage and humour. In this it is essential that the client understands what is their normal and what they need to raise the bar to. E.g. normal for them being 5 out of 10 but needing to lift up to a 7 to have impact.
Accessing personal power zone
I also got my client to be able to step into their power zone where they could access their most confident empowering state before they stepped on the stage. This also included the client seeing the opportunity as a ‘chance to develop and grow’; putting it in to a positive frame.
To prepare for any questions from the audience we discussed the benefit of doing a Q&A document prior, asking colleagues to help flesh out any curly or interesting questions that could arise and ensuring that my client could answer these confidently. My client ran the presentation via several people at work to ask for feedback and I also encouraged them to practice it several times in front of a mirror or someone to get comments and observe their body language. I also asked the client to write down and note what they liked and didn’t like about other speakers they listened to before their presentation so they could model any positive behaviours. At the end of the presentation I asked my client to write notes about how they thought they went, how they felt, what emotions were occurring and what they would change. This approach allowed the client to prepare thoroughly for their presentation.
10 KEY TIPS
1) What do you want to achieve from the presentation?
2) What do you want your audience to see, hear, feel or think about your presentation?
3) What are your fears and self-sabotaging behaviours? List them and confront them head on.
4) Allow time to put your presentation together so you can practice without being under too much pressure
5) Practice in front of peers and get feedback about your presentation and your presenting style
6) Make sure your presentation is clear with good visuals and not too much detail on each slide
7) Do a Q&A document to answer any curly questions that come your way
8) Play with your speed of voice, pitch of voice, use of hand gestures, humour and owning the stage
9) Watch other presenters and note what you like and dislike about their style
10) Get someone to watch your final presentation and benchmark you on an agreed criteria to give you feedback