Presentation ParanoiaWritten by Graham Yemm
“The human brain starts working moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” (Sir George Jessel)
Have you had this feeling before? Rest assured you are not alone. You might be one of many who would rate your fear of public speaking alongside or ahead of death! Your fear may translate itself to “FEAR” – Forget Everything And Run!!
Having ability to present yourself and your message to an audience, whether internal or external, is a necessary skill for a good manager and leader. By following some simple steps you can improve your skills in this area, reduce your fear and build your confidence. As you have more success in making presentations you may well find yourself actually looking forward to doing more of them. Clients, colleagues and other staff will be more responsive and supportive. You will realise principles apply to groups of 2 – 200 and above, and whether sitting across a desk or in a conference hall.
Why do you want to improve your skills in this area? It might be to reduce feelings of nerves – or even panic. Maybe to reduce risk of making yourself look a fool in front of audience? Or you may want to be able to present yourself and your message with more confidence and conviction to win people over. Perhaps you want to be able to look forward to making presentations? Whatever your reasons, principles we will cover here will help you.
The biggest challenge for most people when asked to make a presentation is way their imaginations start to operate. All sorts of thoughts begin to swirl around – and how many are to do with things going wrong, fluffing words, audience reactions etc. etc. and compared with it going successfully and being enjoyable? One way to change this initial response is to follow basic ideas covered below. Also, accept that it is not a bad thing to have some nerves. They trigger a chemical reaction which, harnessed properly, will help to make your presentation a success.
The secret is to remember that when you see good presenters, you are only seeing tip of iceberg. A great deal has gone on beneath surface to enable them to be person you see. For those who have a real fear of presenting, they make problem worse. They go into denial of presentation, use this to keep putting off doing things beneath surface with all sorts of excuses and reasons – so that when they come to actual presentation it does not go well. Then they can say, “Told you so! See, I’m no good at presentations!” The art of self-fulfilling prophecy continues. To prevent paranoia – make time to do fundamentals! Plan and prepare. Also, have a realistic level of expectation. Too many people, when having to make a presentation, spend too much time focusing on themselves. There is a balance to be met – and secret for a good presentation is to keep focus on audience, and your subject and objective. Get first two right and third will take care of itself!
To get your planning underway, ask yourself some simple questions:
WHAT: Consider purpose of presentation, to inform, influence, inspire, generate action? Be more specific, what are my objectives from this? What are key things you want audience to take away with them – or to do?
WHO: Put your focus on people you will be presenting to. How many will they be? What are their objectives? What is their level of knowledge? Will they be a “willing” audience or were they sent? When you have answers to these points, you have some idea of what level to pitch your presentation.
WHERE: Is presentation going to be made in a meeting room, someone’s office, a large venue? What will be layout? How flexible is it? (You can always ask to have it set-up to suit you, though a boardroom table is hard to adjust!) What equipment is available? What do you need to take?
WHEN: What time of day are you presenting? Are there other presenters before and after you? What impact will these two answers have on your approach to presentation?
HOW: How long have you got? Remember, longer is not necessarily better! Also, although this may seem odd if you are nervous about presentations, it is harder to plan and prepare a brief, effective presentation than to organise a longer one. (Churchill, amongst others, is quoted as saying something along lines of, “It takes me 10 minutes to prepare for a 2 hour speech – and 2 hours to prepare for a 10 minute one.”)
Put answers to these together and you are in a position to begin preparation of presentation itself. Some things to consider are:
Who do you talk to?Written by Graham Yemm
Many of you reading this will be running businesses, or parts of, whether they are your own or not. This means that you have many things to deal with on a day to day basis plus trying to do long-term thinking needed to lead and run business. You probably find yourself being very busy, possibly working long hours and, if you are honest, being reactive most of time. When do you get (or make!) time to really think about your business or way you are operating personally? (Working on business rather than in it!) Among dilemmas you face are; making time to tune out and relax, time think about business, and finding time talk to about issues and frustrations.
When you are a leader in a business you face a number of challenges at different levels. Ask yourself how much focus you put on to these:
- Assessing market and what is happening?
- Who are your main competition – and what are they doing?
- Medium and long-range goals and aims – and planning?
- What direction do you want to go in, why and how?
- Day to day challenges
- Financial aspects, especially cash flow
- Monitoring and control of your business and activity
- Sales and service
- Personal management style and effectiveness
- Staff – numbers, performance, motivation, development
- Customers and suppliers
- Colleagues and working relations
As we said earlier, many in your position are so busy dealing with running of operation they rarely take time to think about these things in a more detached way. Does this apply to you? This is often compounded by a sense of isolation, brought about by their position too. (Is this familiar?) Who do you talk to about your own style of running business or handling your people? Who can you share concerns with, without feeling you are weakening your position?
This inability to spend time, or right amount of time, on these vital areas of your business carries risks! Also, what do you do about your own, personal challenges and concerns? Any sense of isolation and not being able to talk to appropriate people also has risks. Not many set out to fail in their business lives. Why do they? Often, because avoid dealing with these risks (possibly even denying them until it is too late.). Sometimes, there may be a combination of circumstances which mean that it cannot be stopped. However, often, disasters can be prevented with right degree of warning or right type of support. Many people running businesses, or organisations, are too close to them. They do not have time to work out what they are doing well and to arrange to do more of these things. When things may not be going right way, they do not consider things objectively. The pressures might build to stress and it seems even harder to share concerns with a third party. This can lead to a downward spiral towards who knows where!
The risks to business can affect any aspect of it – and people involved. Beyond that, there are also risks to other areas of your life. If things are going awry, other part to suffer may be your family or friends. If you are using them as your sounding board, or just carrying bad news or discussing concerns with them it may not help those relationships! (Nor does hiding these things from them either!)
So what can you do if you feel you do want someone to talk to? You can use friends or family, but they do not necessarily provide encouragement for you to step away and look at things in an objective way. There are various options which you can consider. There is no one “right” approach. You need to consider which seems to be most suitable for you at time, given circumstances.
Advisors: This might be your accountant, someone from your bank or a person you know with a specific “technical” competence who you can turn to. Think about them as someone you can present your situation to and ask for their ideas, or suggestions, about what you could, or should, do. They can be very useful when you need particular expertise.
Network: Depending on how you operate, you will probably have some sort of network of contacts, whether part of a formal set-up or not. Think about who you know, who has what qualities or skills you can respect or admire and then approach them. (If you are in an organisation, consider colleagues or bosses.) If you have a few friends or acquaintances who are also running businesses, or are people you respect in their field, you may want to consider initiating a support network for you all. (Or create a “mastermind” group.) Arrange to meet at a regular time with aim of having a short, focused meeting to address specific issues and goals – using your colleagues as a sounding board, and for challenge and support. Do not slide out to a purely social gathering, that can come later!! Be disciplined in way you work and you will all benefit.