How to Keep Your Cool When Presenting

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Last summer, I was sitting in a healthcare VP’s office chatting about his department. He told me about how they couldn’t gain buy-in from their CIO or other departments to push projects through that would greatly affect the security of their hospitals. He told me one of the reasons for their challenge is that nobody really understands what their department does and the importance of their work. He explained that “IT speak” sounds like a foreign language to most of their cohorts and his own team members don’t understand how to communicate the department’s value proposition throughout the organization.

An additional challenge was that their workload was out of control. The VP couldn’t rely on his team’s presentation or communication skills to help share the load, so he was doing all of the “doing”, instead of doing the leading.

His goal was to promote several of his employees to director positions and rely on them to present his department’s ideas in order to get budgets approved for new projects.

We worked with his employees to improve their presentation skills, and after three months, their nervousness melted away, they began organizing their thoughts, and they learned how to tailor their message to specific audiences instead of using IT jargon.

By April of this year, three of his team members were promoted and the gridlock within their department had decreased.

This VP is not alone. His challenges are not unique. When we are expected to do more, better, faster, with fewer resources, communication can get disorganized. In today’s business reality, we must depend upon others to help get the job done, therefore, we all need sharp communication and presentation skills.

So how do we calm our nerves and clearly communicate when presenting? Here are 3 tips to keep you cool and on track:

1. Know your audience – Your audience wants to know 3 things about you as a presenter: That you understand their challenges, that you know what is important to them, and that you speak in terms of their interests.

When you’re preparing your presentation, try answering these questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • How much do they know about my topic?
  • What is the benefit to them?
  • What are their challenges?
  • How much resistance might I encounter?
  • How might I overcome it?

2. Abide by the 3 E’s of Convincing Listeners – Mr. Carnegie said the best presenters have 3 things in common:

  • Earned the Right – Presenters have earned the right to speak on a topic through study and experience.
  • Excited – The best presenters are passionate about their topics and excited to tell their stories.
  • Eager – Projecting the value of their topic to their listeners is what makes top-notch presenters compelling.

3. Become a storyteller – First of all, when you tell a story, there’s no need to memorize a script. It’s the memorization that causes nerves. When you are speaking from the heart instead reading a script, you are more engaging as a speaker. Secondly, storytelling starts with a time, a place, the people involved, and what happened. “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” BOOM! You’re right in the moment. Why? Because our brains can’t help but paint a mental picture that captures our attention and pulls us into the moment. So, engage your listeners by telling them a story about a real-life incident you’ve experienced that revolves around your topic. When you do, you will motivate and inspire your audience!

If you were able to communicate the value of your topic to your listeners and inspire them to action, what would that mean for you? Understand your audience, abide by the 3 E’s and tell your story to find out!

Blog writtten by Lauren Beuerlein

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