Presenting – a cornerstone of business success

When people think of presentations they tend to think of large lecture halls, a semi-attentive audience and a somewhat horrifyingly important presentation that needs to be delivered. Or we might think of a boardroom of critical faces waiting to tear us to shreds when we do our presentation.

There are several things wrong with these images, and probably the most worrying is that a presentation is looked at as a ‘thing’ that gets done to other people.

Presenting is something we do every time we interact with someone. When we write emails, make calls or visit someone in the office down the hall. These are all instances of us interacting with other people and putting forward ideas, suggestions or information.

Presenting is about getting a response

When you are delivering an idea or a suggestion you need to take into account your audience. How do you expect them to respond? What is their current perspective? Are you going to deliver in terms of how they already think, or will you try to bring them to a new way of thinking? These are the questions you need to think through if you are going to become a fundamentally powerful presenter.

The response can be directed by you

Another misconception is that you get up on stage, deliver a presentation and hope that the crowd likes it. Or you stand before a boardroom hoping for a yes vote. No wonder people get nervous about presenting!

Relying on unknown outcomes to confirm or deny the worth of your content is completely nerve-racking. Instead, think of presenting like telling a story, with a beginning, middle and end that you walk people through, perhaps delivering them to a final destination point where they need to make a decision, but you have already provided a platform of information and explanation of potential outcomes.

Plan for reactions to give yourself confidence

Regardless of whether you’re presenting to a large audience or just trying to have a discussion with your manager, the biggest fear that people report is the unknown of how they’ll be received.

The good news is that you can prepare your response to the reactions you get. If you are delivering to a large room and you open with a joke and it falls flat, you know not to include any more humour in the rest of the speech. If they love the joke it might give you the freedom to move into some anecdotes and case studies to capitalise on the warmth in the room.

We tend to overstate the likelihood of the worst-case scenario in our own minds, but also struggle to plan for those things happening. The result is the exact process that leads to stage fright. Preparing for the worst gives you a massive confidence boost. When you have a plan for that then anything else becomes a pleasant surprise.

I keep pushing for the paradigm shift from presentations being a broadcast to being a conversation. It is an easy mindset change that will completely shift the outcome of any presentations you deliver, regardless of the scale. It stops you seeing an audience as a big faceless mass, to one of individuals that you can communicate with directly.

Eve Ash will be presenting a half-day workshop at AIM in Melbourne on Thursday, November 29 on Presenting with Impact. SmartCompany readers are invited! Ask about our special 25% discount! Eve has recently released a very funny short video, Presenting with Passion, about turning from BLAND to GRAND.

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