Many years ago one of our first clients worked for a large publishing firm. And she had been taught to get over her “problem” of gesticulating as she talked, by holding a paperclip behind her back. This ensured that she looked like a soldier on parade and because when speaking naturally she used her hands … she felt (and looked) uncomfortable!
The other downside to this technique was that she felt she could only present formally, with preparation and a paperclip! This was a problem because in her role as department head she was often called upon to give an informal presentation to the MD’s guests, potential clients and current customers who were being given a tour of the building.
These people would arrive unannounced at any time of the day and invariably she would be asked to give a quick overview of the department’s role in light of their particular interest area. Her description of what then ensued was that she would blush, mumble and stutter her way through a garbled description that had no structure or necessarily touched on their areas of interest.
What she had forgotten was how to present informally. As soon as she heard the word “presentation” she thought “corporate”, “business speak” and “PowerPoint”.
One of the exercises in our Presentation & Confidence Building workshop is called a chat in the pub. And the purpose is for delegates to get used to telling a story as if to a friend and then enlarge the audience, telling the same story. It gets you to consider that presenting to 10, 20 or 30 is really no different to presenting to one.
Let me explain.
Imagine you are in the pub or a café and your friend says “so what is it that you do”? You are unlikely to get out a PowerPoint presentation and talk them through the slides. You might explain what you do and then how that fits into the workings of the company. Or you might (if it is a complex marketplace) explain what the company does in their business market and then explain what your role is in that.
Whatever route you take it will be designed for your friend’s level of knowledge (which you might ascertain with a few initial questions), you will use everyday words rather than the ones you imagine “business people” use and you will check in that they understand and are still with you. It will be more of a dialogue than a presentation.
And that is how you can be ready to present at any time. Stop worrying about the slides, the business speak and the importance of the audience. Ask them about their areas of interest, tailor what you know to suit their level of understanding and talk to them naturally, as if in a conversation, rather than from the front of the room.
If you would like to know more about our Presentation Skills training then do have a look at some of the options here or call me on 01494 453910 for a chat.