By Ken Ingram
Whatever you do or wherever you go, at some point in your business life you will have an opportunity or more to speak in front of a group of people. When such occasions present themselves, you will have no choice but to step up and inevitably be in the spotlight. It can be the scariest event in the life of your business or your moment to shine. I often find that people who are comfortable speaking in front of a group, are also comfortable with the process of selling. This is why I propose that you invest in developing your presentation skills in 2015.
Imagine for a moment you are at an event and they announce that each person will have the opportunity to come forward to give an organized sixty second infomercial about their business. If you were to do a survey and evaluate your frame of mind and some of the others in the room, you would most likely learn that on a scale of one to ten that half the room would be in panic mode. Speaking in public is not something most people are comfortable doing so a significant spike in stress levels can be expected because the organizers have just set up a uncomfortable situation. When this happens it is your professional responsibility to maintain control of your frame of mind and attitude in order to project a consistent level of confidence. In doing so you are becoming the master of your own destiny.
A key mistake many people make in this situation, is “rambling on”. One thing that you can do to make your presentation more powerful and effective is to take pauses. It will help to emphasize and more importantly ensure that your message is clear and to the point. I have often been told that it is not that I speak slowly rather that I speak clearly. I do pause as appropriate, and it helps to add value, curiosity and drama to the message.
When speaking the most challenging things to do are often small things such as key pauses. With practice you can master using pauses in any circumstance and it will benefit your sales message. Here are some ideas:
(a) make a list of some of the best speakers / presenters that you know, and take note of their style; then
(b) practice what you have observed and learned. Your level of confidence will soar!
One of the first things I learned, and personally adopted, was if you must give a speech, then practice what you will say out loud so you can hear your voice and how it will sound. The second is that if you need to read notes then jot them down in ”breath-size”; then break them up so that they can be read with purposeful pauses. I have been interviewed by radio, television where I have spoken at events with calmness and clarity. You can master these skills through practice and some coaching. For most of us who love to talk, changing our habits and behaviors will require incredible self-discipline and self-confidence. Because to know one’s self means that you need to ask yourself some difficult questions and tolerate some discomfort and uncertainty.
They say that the future belongs to story tellers because we think in pictures not in words. Nicolas Boothman, a friend and colleague says we are all part of the idea delivery system. Therefore, the more effective we are at communicating our thoughts and ideas, the more successful we become. What is important is to develop the ability to share ideas by painting pictures in the minds of everyone you are speaking or interacting with in any given situation.
Charlie, a friend of mine, approached me about one year ago; he was attending a competition in Florida to win twenty thousand dollars. We met and it was one of the most fun-filled couple of hours we shared. It never takes long to learn the basics, but then you need to practice, practice and practice! They say that the motive of all learning is repetition.
Well then: repetition is practice! My friend took all the tips and advice that he had learned from our coaching session together, and executed his presentation with precision in 3.5 minutes. The outcome: the judges awarded him with the twenty thousand dollar cheque! Imagine if you could achieve a similar feat for your business; how would you feel?
Mark Twain said “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Friend and colleague George Torack taught me that most people cannot tolerate the vacuum of silence. So when you are in a negotiation, a simple well placed pause can make a significant difference because the one who speaks less usually wins. The one who blinks tends to give away more information and even more concessions. Take this idea for a test drive and let me know the results. Plato “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”
Once you have stated your position – stop talking and listen. Remember that every effective public presentation should not be about making noise rather about your selection of carefully articulated words and pauses which are positioned between each thoughtful word. So ignore the voices of self-doubt and any feeling of nervousness. Focus your energy into acting at ease. Smile, maintain posture and convey confidence. Shoulders back, head up, and make eye contact. Through experience and practice you can master your fears and become a picture of self confidence. Practice makes perfect, do you have the audacity and willingness to become the master of your destiny? I trust that you do.