We have heard a great deal about the need for women to “empower” themselves. Better presentation skills are surely one of the best ways to achieve that. Women can improve their status at work or in social situations by getting better at making their own case. Of course, there are many other factors affecting such a complicated social issue that need to be addressed, but focusing on better ways to bring home your message in a clear, compelling way has to help.
It is one thing to encounter unfair treatment, it is quite another to make it evident by carefully utilizing important presentation principles. So speak up for yourself more often.
The first step is to focus on your audience. Make your presentation about those receiving it. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” What is it that they want to leave with when you are finished speaking?
Researching your audience is where dynamic public speaking begins. Never lose sight of the fact that the audience is the top priority and knowing them well is critical to your success.
About the Nerves
Confront the fears you have. Write them down. By crystallizing our concerns we are able to deal with them one at a time. Don’t place too much weight on your shoulders. Nobody could live with that burden. Take your work seriously, prepare as well as you can, and then go enjoy the experience. If you make a mistake, the consequences are not fatal. Learn from your mistakes and be better the next time.
Be clear. We begin by appreciating the value of clarity and by never being satisfied that we are clear enough. Keep stepping back and ask yourself, “How can I make this presentation simpler and clearer?” Don’t forget you’re the expert on the topic, that’s why you are speaking on it in the first place. Your audience members are usually not experts, that’s why they’re listening to you. Evaluate your entire outline and be tough on your writing. Ask frequently, “Do I really need this in there,” “Will that be clear to everyone?” “Why would they care about this?”
Your style is a combination of things — appearance, voice, presence, nonverbal communication, and attitude. Let’s make sure they are all working in your favor when you speak.
We often hear, “Your appearance shouldn’t count. It’s what’s inside of you that matters.” Let’s leave that discussion for the moralists. Appearance does count and it is our task to make the most out of how we look. Appearance counts because audience members often respond to the way we look. Appearance counts because it may affect the way we feel about ourselves.
Your appearance is the first statement you make about how seriously you take your audience. It doesn’t have to be a fashion show, but you should dress well enough to leave the clear impression that you understand the audience’s attention matters a lot. When it comes to appearance, we should do what we can to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.
How you come across has a lot to do with your attitude. Listeners pick up quickly on the signals you send. I cringe when a speaker says, “This is really dry stuff. I hope we can get through it quickly.” Why should I be interested in something if you think it’s boring? I don’t believe the transfer of knowledge is ever boring. It’s the speaker’s role to make it interesting and relevant. Bill Gates once said, “The thing I do best is share my enthusiasm.”
Never miss a chance to ask how you did. The feedback is how we improve. Dynamic speaking is a journey and we never should be fully satisfied.
The path presented here for becoming a better presenter is one I have followed myself. It works! Each of us is special. Each has a lifetime of values, experiences, and emotions to share. That makes you interesting and important. It can make you “dynamic.” I cannot wait to see the best that lies within you!