by Peter Watts
To become a great presenter, presentation skills training might be the last thing you need.
- Can you read basic notes?
- Can you speak?
- Can you answer yes to both those questions? Excellent. You’ve got what it takes to speak in public.
Public speaking has little to do with the frills of body language taught in presentation skills classes, which often do little more than help you become a more effective PowerPoint clone.
The fact that you are Googling presentation skills shows that you have a drive to get out there and speak. Your challenge now isn’t to paddle around the edges. Your challenge is to get out there and do it!
Here’s the thing: When you stand up to speak, it’s because you want to persuade, inform, or inspire a group of people. The major focus is to forget about how you are saying things, and focus instead on what you are saying!
When public speaking works it’s about having your own thoughts, your own opinions, and the confidence to express them.
It’s about being able to think, and then having thought, be able to convey those thoughts to others. It’s about message, and knowing how to convey that message. Finally, it’s about being natural and true to your own individual style. Don’t let anyone tell you to change that style. It’s yours, and it’s your own true strength.
There is an interesting article in the New York Times that touches on this. Mitt Romney, nominee assumptive in the Republican race for the the White House, is winning the television debates by having jettisoned the starched, over-prepared approach he took in the 2007 race, and has adopted a more natural, easy going approach. He’s released the presentation skills, and reached for the message.
Let’s compare this to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the UK’s own debates a couple of years ago. A combative and devastatingly effective speaker, Brown should have blasted his way through the debates. Instead he came across as clumsy, with an odd habit of suddenly breaking into a deaths-heads grin rather than his usual scowl. It was the exact opposite of the Romney approach. Brown allowed his normally clear, belief-led style, to be maimed by an overdose of technique; presentation skilled to the point where the presentation’s killed.
What does this mean for the best way to build your presentation skills?
The most effective way is to get out there and present! There is no better forum for developing your skills than the forum itself. Here are some ideas:
Step One: Create Your Opportunity
When pushing your boundaries, the main rule to follow is safety first. You want a safe learning environment where you can experiment a little.
ToastMasters are a worldwide group who provide an excellent practice and training environment for presenters
If you work within a team, ask the person who normally chairs your team meetings if you can make a presentation. Choose a topic of relevance to the team and one where you have something to offer
To get used to making customer presentations, you can start off with a presentation either to one of your existing customers who represents a safe environment
Local Schools & Colleges
Check with your H.R. Department. You may find they have a sheaf of requests from local schools for people to speak on Careers Day.
Step Two: Create Your Presentation
Within The Presenter’s Blog, you’ll find ideas for many aspects of presenting. Try the following articles for some ideas:
Don’t allow waiting for a chance to attend presentation skills training to delay you. The best way to become a presenter is to have an opinion and to get out there and own it. That’s what public speaking is all about; to persuade, to inform, and to inspire. To inspire yourself out onto the stage, is the all important first step.