There is plenty of evidence to suggest that every extra minute you spend on preparation and practise can make you a better presenter. Why is this, and what happens to your performance when you make some time for preparation and practise?
I spoke with Bell Integrated senior client partner Ling Jin, account director Sarah Topley and head of design Jason Bannister, as well as Su Duff (ex-Bell) about the changes they’ve noticed in their performance as a result of changes to their preparation.
More dynamic and energised presenters: “We now present with our own words which is different from having a set of words created by someone else and given to us” says Jin. “This reveals our individuality and flair- our passion for the work comes through because we are able to tap into what it means to us. My performance is enhanced, enabling me to influence my audience more positively.”
Tap into all of the skills of the presenters: Jin says: “In my spare time I do volunteering which involves speaking to groups of 100+ people. In my work role, I never thought I’d be capable of doing that, which was really strange when I look back on it. The difference was that in the volunteering role, I was working with my own content and tapping into my passion for the subject. It was just a question of creating the opportunity to do the same at work.”
Create positive impact and influence: Jin says: “When I changed my behaviour I triggered behaviour change in others. I’m seeing the difference in the eye contact and body language of the people I’m meeting. The way they sit for example, more often now towards me, rather than at 45 degrees. They nod when I speak and address their replies to me.”
Create the space for new ideas to emerge: Practise has changed Bannister’s approach to presentations. He says: “I make more use of pauses and breaks which makes space for thought and possibility to be created. I give the client the time to take things in. While they’re doing this, it gives me time to notice what they’re paying attention to. What’s going on for them. And this helps me to ask a useful question or make an observation to uncover or develop their thinking”.
Place your focus in a useful place: You can communicate without using words, for example, by choosing where to focus your attention. Bannister says: “It’s tempting as a creative to describe what things are. But I realised that’s the equivalent of reading what is on a PowerPoint slide. Now, I feel less inclined to explain what’s there and obvious. I might draw attention to the finer details. Or the overall intended effect. By addressing something that’s not obvious, I am able to open up more possibilities.”
Respond well to pressure: Every meeting creates a degree of pressure. So how do you turn that to your advantage? For Duff, the fact of knowing she had prepared changed the game. “The ‘me’ that turns up to meetings responds well to the situation. I get excited rather than nervous. It feels more like being presented with something tantalising.”
More in control: “We’re better able to cope with the unexpected” says topley. “We’re in control of our thoughts. By having this mindset we’re also able to manage better any negative thoughts such as ‘what if I don’t do this or that’. Positive thoughts radiate positive beliefs – for example ‘we’re the experts, our client’s day will be made better and more interesting by our presentation’. This gets you excited and looking forward to the meeting, you feed off the buzz. Feeling that excitement, finding your passion and loving what you’re presenting brings it to life.”
Given the obvious performance benefits that come from preparation and practise what needs to change for you to create these for yourself?
Jin’s approach to change might work for you, especially if creating the time to practice seems impossible. “If you do small things each day, those small things soon add up to a big thing. The only thing stopping everyone becoming confident presenters is their commitment to doing so over time, supported by their organisation,” she says.
This is the third P of the four Ps, designed help agencies to raise their game in meetings and presentations. Next time I will discuss the final ‘P’– personal confidence.
If you’re interested in honing your presentation skills, I’m running a one day workshop on 23rd February called Influential Meetings and Presentations.