A lot has been written on presentation skills over the years. While some of this is very good and informative, some are full of myths and false truths. These myths and false truths have only served to increase the stress and discomfort associated with public speaking and presentations. I will talk about 3 common myths about presentations and prove each one wrong, or expose it for the false exaggeration it actually is. There is no secret skill, or special trait people are born with which is required for professional presentations. It is a combination of preparation, practice, and perfecting a set of simple techniques that will help to deliver presentations with impact and ease.
‘I am an introvert, presentations are for extroverts’
Some of the world’s greatest public speakers have a preference for introversion: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mary Robinson, and Nelson Mandela are just a few examples. Introversion and extroversion are our preference to where we draw energy. It is true that presentations will draw less energy from a person with a preference for extroversion; however, this same person will be exhausted planning for their presentation. The person with a preference for introversion will expend more energy while presenting, however, they will enjoy the planning more. So having a preference for introversion will help your presentations through the planning phase.
‘I always forget everything I am going to say’
The human brain can only focus on 5-9 items at a time. If you are managing your nerves, worrying about your performance, or thinking about the questions the audience are going to ask this will leave little space for the information you want to retain. Use visual aids as a road-map, key images or pictures that will trigger your memories. Have numbers such as dates, statistics, times, etc. documented on key slides, posters, or flip charts. If you are using a flip chart remember you can always write information in a light pencil beforehand (the audience cannot see this), and fill it in during the presentation. A poster at the back of the room with your key information also helps as it will be within your view but out of the audiences view. Find the technique that suits you best and use it. Remember to always use aids in recall.
‘I will die if they ask me a question I cannot answer’
People are inquisitive by nature, so most people will always ask questions. This shows they are listening and are interested in your presentation. For questions you cannot answer that is okay, it is how you tell the audience you do not know and that is the key. Bridging is a technique used by professional presenters where they ‘bridge’ from the question to the answer. This bridge may be an acknowledgement, ‘That’s a great question‘ or ‘ It is interesting you asked that question as…‘ Asking is another bridging technique, here you simply ask for more information to clarify the question, ‘In what way do you mean‘ or ‘Do you mean locally or globally‘. A more advanced (and sometimes tricky) bridge is the adapt technique. The adapt technique requires the presenter to pick up on key words within the question, and reference these words while giving the answer you want the audience to hear. A word of caution here, this technique takes practice, if used incorrectly it will appear you are just ‘dodging the question’.
Just imagine the successful feeling you will experience once you have the ability to deliver with impact. You have started a journey towards excellence, now it is time to continue developing your success.
Derek Fox delivers on IMI’s programme ‘Presenting with Impact’ and is an expert in management development, innovation and interpersonal communications. Derek has published a number of books including his bestselling titles in both Psychology (DISCovering your style and dealing with difficult people) and Presentation skills (Presenting without fear).