The Three WORST Pieces of Advice Given Presenters

And how best to ignore them

Ever hear the one about picturing your audience naked to overcome your fear of presenting to them? How about the one about practicing in front of a mirror? Anyone who has ever tried either of those well-meaning tropes knows how futile they are. Deluding ourselves that we can calm fears by laughing at our audience, or that we can convince them of anything by faking authenticity, is worse than a waste of time.  It prevents us from using our greatest power as presenters: our true selves.

Nothing is quite as powerful as watching and listening to someone who is passionate about what they know and knows how to share it with an audience they know how to connect with. So what other well-meaning advice can we ignore as we build those powerful presentation skills? Try ignoring these “how to’s” and substituting some genuine skill builders.

Worst Advice:

Memorize Your Presentation
Now this one sounds reasonable enough on the surface. After all, much of our fear about presenting is wrapped up in our fear of looking foolish in front of others. Some of that comes from our fear of drawing a blank when all eyes are on us. If we memorize our presentation, that won’t happen, right? Perhaps, but what will certainly happen is that we’ll be taken out of “the moment” as we put all of our energy and attention on recalling the least significant portion of our presentation: the literal words. Suddenly, we’re not focused on the immediate reaction we’re getting from the audience or on making sure we’re connecting with them. We’re focusing instead on making sure the words keep coming. That sets the bar too low: surviving the presentation until the end isn’t your goal. CONNECTING to your audience is.

Instead: Know Your Presentation
Focus on the essence of what you’re presenting: namely your key messages. This is what’s most important for your audience to understand. If the worst happens and all of your materials and notes disappeared, how would you summarize what you came to say?  Put those bigger ideas up front and build your presentation around them. Your audience won’t likely remember all of the supporting details, but they should remember your key points. Worry less about repeating the exact words you intended and more about making sure you’re connecting. If you see heads nodding, react. If you see puzzled looks, don’t just plow through. Stop and make sure you’re not rushing ahead of your audience just to fill space. Slow yourself down and make sure you really see your audience and gauge their reactions. Remember, no one knows what you were supposed to say, so don’t let a pause or different phrasing than you’d planned throw you.


Use a Lot of Bullets

For some reason, lots of presenters think they can take a long, dry presentation and suddenly make it come alive if they can just add enough bullets to the screen. Ever sit through one of those presentations where the bullets don’t in any way indicate an abbreviated point? Heck, they may not even indicate a point! Here’s the thing: TEXT ON A SLIDE IS NOT A VISUAL AID. There is nothing about text that makes it more understandable, or illustrative, than the spoken word, by itself.

Instead: Put the Visual Back in Visual Aid
Are there actual visuals that would help illustrate your points? Can you bring in relevant charts, graphs, photos, illustrations to help your audience “see” your points? If you must use bullets, greatly reduce them and the words you use. Your audience didn’t come to read and they didn’t come to listen to YOU read to them. (Hint: if you use punctuation in your bulleted information, you’re using too many words.)


More is Better

Ever sit through a presentation that’s a product of many hands? More detail, more slides, with the presenter intoning something like…”..and here you can see again..…“ or “this is just yet another example of…” Yes, you want to prove your key points. Data does help you do that. However, information overload may quickly confuse your audience and actually mask your key points.

Instead: Pointed is Powerful
Limit your backup points and secondary data to your “best stuff.” Ask yourself whether any given slide is necessary, why, and what might instead be moved to handout material. Remember, this is ORAL presentation. That means it’s necessary for presenters to pay attention to higher messages, with just enough information to lend strong support. Remember, you are the presentation, so stay center stage.

Aileen Pincus is a communications consultant and President of the Pincus Group, Executive Communications Training. She can be reached at www.thepincusgroup.com

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Communicating With Power: A New Year’s Resolution

Getting Past the Myths of “Women Can’t”  

Remember “Mean are from Mars and Women are from Venus”? Family therapist John Gray was hardly the first to insist communication problems are gender-based. In fact, Gray’s pop-psychology tome of the early 90’s simply gave way to decades of popular psychology about the supposed female deficit communicating from the executive suite.

For many women trying to climb the corporate ladder, the takeaway unfortunately has been that communicating “like a man” would be essential to success. A whole marketplace of communication training now exists, based on the notion of fixing” women’s supposed lack of professional communication skills.The only thing wrong with the concept is that it’s bunk.

Even if you don’t believe the research debunking gender communication differences in the brain (i.e.one of many studies such as the  Purdue study finding gender differences even in interpersonal communication smaller than differences between individuals , or a 2015 brain scan study debunking the popular notion of gender brain differences www.newscientist.com/article/dn28582-scans-prove-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-male-or-female-brain/),  it’s hard to set aside widely held notions of a female disadvantage in workplace communication skills.

The healthier reality I’ve observed in coaching hundreds of executives to success, is that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the communication problems of the sexes.

There’s nothing actually gender-specific about confidence or clarity—two essentials for powerful public communication. The ability to maintain eye contact or to speak thoughtfully using direct and powerful language is gender neutral. Certainly it would be difficult to correlate gender to the ability to speak with conviction and passion—all hallmarks of powerful and persuasive communication.

What I see instead is an array of common communication problems. Highly successful executives of both genders often have trouble knowing what to leave out, how to explain complex ideas without overwhelming an audience, how to motivate, how to project confidence, how to communicate powerfully and portray authenticity. Both male and female executives often complain when seeking help about not having a “natural” talent for communicating, by which they mean, it fills them with anxiety (particularly when the stakes are high). Of course nature and talent aren’t what’s called for here; preparation and hard work are.

The good news is powerful communication is about the clarity of the vision; not the gender of the visionary.

It’s about the power of the message, not the sex of the messenger.

The truth is, women aren’t a special class of disabled communicators, nor are men who don’t feel masters of the skill, somehow ‘naturally’ lacking.

Presenting and public speaking are acquired skills and the real truth is anyone can improve. Anyone can learn to be a powerful and effective public communicator for their ideas. Anyone can learn to let others see them at their authentic best. So whether you get professional coaching (ahem), or opt for informal feedback on your own, resolve to get there. Commit to showing yourself at your absolute public best. It’s too important for your own career success to perform at anything less than at your most powerful!

Aileen Pincus is a communications consultant and President of the Pincus Group, Executive Communications Training. She can be reached at www.thepincusgroup.com

Presentation Confidence: Take The Fear Out Of Executive Presentations

We tend to avoid what we fear, so before you hand off that presentation to someone else or try side-stepping the responsibility altogether, consider what you’d be passing up. Each presentation in front of your peers, your boss, an important client is a unique opportunity to showcase your value. A home run in a presentation or briefing can do more to lift your reputation and cement trust for these important relationships than all of the hard work you’ve already put in getting ready for it.

That’s because your audience can see and hear your ideas for themselves. They can connect the messages with the messenger and get the full measure of their impact. Importantly, they will give credit for those ideas to you, the presenter. In short, presentation and briefing skills are essential tools every executive needs to master.

Embrace the presentation opportunities you have by conquering those fears and letting your expertise shine. Follow these pro tips to help:

Don’t memorize

If you memorize (instead of just getting comfortable with your ideas), all you’ll be concentrating on when you deliver your presentation is remembering what you were supposed to say. That’s going to interfere with being your best, most confident self. Instead, stay in the moment and give yourself permission to express your key ideas in a way that sounds natural and comfortable for you. Don’t worry about perfection. Your audience isn’t.

Do prepare (the right way)

Get your essential ideas down to (no more than) three main points. Practice delivering these orally. Pay attention to how you naturally communicate them, what details you use to explain each and how you transition from one main point to the next. There’s simply no substitute for hearing yourself present and building some muscle memory of how you want the presentation or briefing to flow. (Recording yourself is a great tool for this.) If you write out a full script, begin practicing with a greatly reduced one with just bullet points or notes with key points and phrases. It’s far more important to stay connected to your audience than it is to remember every detail of something you’d prepared.

Build in a breather

Many presenters need help controlling their fears at the very start of their presentations. Once they get into the body of their material, the content of what they’re saying helps them find their stride and pull through. If you’re most anxious at the beginning of your presentation, try a different approach. A question to the audience momentarily allows you to subtly shift the focus to your audience and might offer you the breathing room you need to settle in. (Of course the question has to be one you’re reasonably certain will draw the right response, or a survey with no right or wrong answer that helps you set up your points). You might also use a prop, or a handout to momentarily draw people’s attention to something you’re about to speak to. You might even start with a short video or other visual after the briefest of introductions.

Go with what works for you

Many executives heave a sigh of relief when the presentation or briefing is over and they can move on to answering questions. If that’s you, don’t feel constrained by formats. Keep the presentation shorter and lengthen the q and a. You’ll still need to deliver some key messages about your conclusions, but you can save the detail for when your audience signals they want it; by asking a question. Just tell your audience what you’re doing (“I have a brief overview and then I want to get right to your questions about what this means”). Remember to present with your audience first and foremost in mind: what is the essential information THEY need?

Treat the symptoms

Fear causes a physical reaction in us, as our brains signal to our bodies that we’re in some kind of danger. Our breathing becomes more rapid, our voices might shake, our palms sweat. It’s those ‘symptoms’ that many presenters fear displaying, so have a plan for handling those reactions. Know that no one can hear what you’re thinking, and are oblivious to your fear. Tell yourself you’re going to be great, remind yourself of past successes, and visualize how good it’s going to be to hear the congratulations afterwards (even if you don’t believe it). Tell yourself: You’ve GOT this! Remember no one knows what you were supposed to say, so if you forget something, just move on without apologies. If you forget something, it’s a good time to pause and ask, “any questions so far”? Don’t try to banish your nerves, channel them. It’s the same energy that will help fuel your performance. Expend a bit of it if you can just before your presentation (a quick walk, some deep knee bends and long, slow deep breaths).

Remember, the more presentations you do, the easier this will be. Don’t avoid speaking to your own ideas and your own capabilities. Remember how scary things were the first time you tried them, that you now do with ease. You can build this ‘muscle memory’ of success, one presentation, one briefing at a time!

Aileen Pincus is President of The Pincus Group Inc., an executive coaching firm offering training in presentation, speech, media and crisis communications. Free consultations at http://www.thepincusgroup.com 301 938-6990

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/9634281

Presentations and Emotional Intelligence: Powering up your presentation

Any good presenter knows the importance of keeping the audience the focal point of the presentation. To be successful, a presenter has to understand not only his or her own subject, but what the audience already knows about it, what they are hoping to learn, and even possible misconceptions  that might stand in the way of their understanding or reaching common ground. It isn’t enough to just keep the audience in mind as you gather your materials and decide on content. To really move and motivate an audience with a presentation, you’ll need to be aware of how the audience is responding to you in the moment.

Emotional intelligence is sometimes defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s self empathetically and appropriately; and to be able to use emotional information to guide behavior. How then is emotional intelligence used to strengthen presentation skills?

Next time you get ready to present, think about how you and your audience are responding to each other and how you can make use of that information to enhance your performance and your results. Some guides to consider:

BUILD IN TIME TO READ YOUR AUDIENCE: This sounds easier than it is. Many presenters think mostly (if not exclusively) about their own performance during a presentation. They understandably want that presentation to go smoothly and without mishap, so are focused on remembering details of what they planned to say, as well as how to get from point to point without missing anything. Master presenters, however, know the test of a great presenter isn’t whether the delivery proceeded without hesitation or that everything you thought you might include was delivered. The emotionally intelligent presenter is aware of the audience’s reaction. Make it a point in every presentation to gauge audience reaction as often as you can. You can do this either by literally stopping occasionally and asking for feedback (“Does this make sense”?  “Everyone agree?” ) or you can simply build in pauses that allow you to gauge reaction yourself.

YOUR AUDIENCE IS COMMUNICATING WITH YOU IF YOU LISTEN:  Audience feedback is often subtle, which is why for many presenters, it’s easy to overlook. Many audiences won’t interrupt your presentation or offer you the kind of verbal feedback that lets you know how you’re being received. The emotionally intelligent presenter checks for non-verbal signs. Are they maintaining eye contact? Are expressions neutral? Interested? Is body language open? Or are they shifting constantly in their seats, avoiding eye contact and giving you other signs of disinterest or disagreement?

TALK BACK: The point of being aware of audience reaction is to react to it. If you sense you might be losing your audience, don’t ignore the signs. Stop and react. If you sense boredom or disinterest, don’t stick to your script. You might quicken your pace or even skip ahead to a different section of your presentation. (“Why don’t we move ahead to some action items.”)  If you sense disagreement, you might react in turn by testing the resistance. “I can see there’s some skepticism. Anyone want to offer some reaction?” That will give you a clue as to whether the resistance or reaction is shared by others or an isolated problem you identified and can quickly address.

TAKE IT IN STRIDE: The purpose of getting audience feedback is to increase your chances of successful communication. Don’t take any negative feedback you get personally, even if you disagree with it or think it unfair. You might even end the presentation portion early in order to devote more time to the q and a section of the presentation, to make sure you’re addressing your audience’s concerns. (I can guarantee that no one will complain about not enough slides, handouts, or data once you’ve gotten through the basics of the presentation.) Keep your additional materials on hand in case someone asks a specific question the additional data can help you explain, but let the audience guide you in when and how much to use.

Emotional Intelligence is now identified as a crucial leadership skill. Remember that displaying it, proving your ability to connect with others right in front of them, will do far more in proving your leadership ability than all the slides, charts and graphs you could possibly display.

Powerful Presentations Depend on Feedback

How do you know your Presentations are Powerful? Get REAL feedback

Presentations are powerful things. When they’re done well, they can persuade an audience, enhance the presenter’s credibility and motivate action. So how do you know when you’re hitting the mark with your audiences?

For most presenters, the answer is to simply ask a colleague or audience member afterwards. The problem is, a simple “How’d I do?” isn’t likely to be answered with an illuminating response. Many people are uncomfortable at giving anything but the most positive or at least neutral feedback (“I thought it was fine.”) Of course, getting helpful and precise feedback is one of the reasons executives hire presentation coaches. You can get good feedback though after your performances if you learn to ask the right questions.

Next time you present:

MAKE FEEDBACK EASY: You can construct a simple feedback survey on index cards to hand out after your presentation if it’s an outside audience. This removes the uncomfortable hurdle for some people of having to tell you in person, should they have anything but positive reactions. Always include at least one open-ended question about what could have been improved. For internal audiences, you might select a few people to ask the same questions via email.

ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS: If you know someone who’ll be attending your presentation, ask them ahead of time if they’ll listen for specific things you’re working on. For instance, if you’re working on reducing the “uhms and ahs” or other verbal fillers when you present, tell a colleague to listen for those as you present. If you make it clear that you’re welcoming that feedback precisely, you’re more likely to get accurate feedback on how you did.

PICK YOUR PRIORITIES: Don’t ask for more feedback than you can handle at one time. Select one or two priorities at a time, such as slowing your hurried pace, or making more eye contact with the audience. You’re much more likely to make real improvements by narrowing your focus.

TAKE IT IN STRIDE: The purpose of feedback is to better your performance as a presenter. Consider the feedback you get but don’t use it as a substitute for your own best judgement. If you have good reason for doing what you do, and it’s working for you, take that into consideration as well. Remember, presenting isn’t “acting”, so if any suggested changes make you uncomfortable, stay true to yourself.

Every time you present, you want your audience to see you at your best. Put the effort into improving this key executive communication skill so others can truly appreciate what you have to offer.