Along your journey you will have opportunities to tell your story, to promote your cause and to explain the things you are working on. These opportunities range in size from simple one-on-one interactions to the typical conference room setting, or standing on stage in front of a large audience. The basics of managing yourself through those communications can be very valuable to both you and your audience.
Here are a few quick tips that I have learned over the years:
- Align the butterflies. Being nervous is part of the process. I still get nervous when I present. I was taught to take the butterflies and get them to fly in formation. Aligning the butterflies (the nervousness) and using that extra energy is part of a passionate presentation.
- Let the stress out through your hands. This was a little trick I learned from a speech class and I still use it today. Before it is my turn to speak I put my hands down by my side and imagine my stress running out of my body through my hands and fingers. Seems simple but it helps.
- Don't put yourself down. People are watching you and hoping they can learn something or be entertained during your presentation. When you say something about yourself that puts yourself down, even slightly, the audience will then wonder why they are wasting their time listening to you. If you have the floor, use it to promote your idea or your cause. Imagine if your doctor came in to give you test results and he started off by saying what a terrible doctor he was. You do not have to brag about how brilliant you are to earn respect, but do not put yourself down. It hurts both you and your audience.
- Smile. Your facial expression is something you have to think about. When you present, your brain will be so busy dealing with the emotions and keeping up with your content that it will leave your face to fend for itself. Practice smiling; not that plastered fake smile, just a good positive look that puts people at ease and let's them know you are happy to be speaking to them. If you look miserable they will not enjoy it and your idea will not make it across to them.
- Focus on your "one idea.” You can only get one idea across to people. What is it? I visualize the audience leaving the meeting with the one thing I want them to be talking about or saying to themselves. If nothing else, I want that one idea to be transmitted to them.
- Display your emotion. If you care, they will care. If you do not care, they will not care. You show that you care with your emotions.
- Introduce yourself. We have all sat in presentations and did not know the name of the person speaking or their company. Do not take for granted that people know you. I always say my name, my company and a bit of personal information. When I listen to presentations I make mental notes of people who do that and those who do not. When the presenter makes a personal connection with me I feel myself loosen up. I feel my attention going to the presenter when I connect with who they are. As a presenter that is your first priority so make the connection.
- Be truthful in your praise. When a room has a good vibe, bright people and energy, I always point that out and compliment the audience. Sometimes I will start a meeting by asking the audience to tell me some good stuff. As they do, it lifts the room, sets a good tone and makes presenting a lot easier.
- When the audience does not give you feedback, give it time. Some meetings do not produce a lot of feedback, so do not fall apart when that happens. Just keep working, pushing your idea forward. Do not let the visible signs of approval, or lack thereof, take you off your goal. Your duty is to present your message, do your best and let the audience digest it at their own pace and in their own way. Sometimes that is less visible than you want, but you cannot let that affect your presentation. Many complex ideas or big leaps forward take people some time to absorb. Think of it as planting seeds. You would not plant a seed and then stand over it getting upset if it did not create a tree with fruit immediately. Sometimes you are planting, sometimes you are reaping.
Presenting yourself, your ideas, your company and your cause are part of growing. It can be stressful, but that stress can become motivation and energy. Observe others as they present and make notes of what engages you and what pushes you away. Adapt and make it your own. You can become a great communicator.