As the owner of a startup or small business you will inevitably need to stand in front of an audience and speak to them. It is an essential part of modern business life.
Speaking in public is something that turns many business owners cold with fear. But with some expert insight and a little practice you can quickly learn how to speak with confidence.
To help you on your way, we’ve asked award-winning international speaker, Bret Freeman, to reveal how to present with POWER.
Building your presenting skills
Delivering memorable talks and presentations means increasing your skills and maximising your impact is crucial.
Let me start by telling you the story of how I learned this lesson.
As I turned around to face several hundred people in the audience, all of sudden, my face started to get hot as the blood rushed to my head. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach starting to dance… I felt light headed and a little sick; I thought to myself, “What have you got yourself into?”
I tried to calm myself down, I tried to think about what I was going to say, I tried to ignore the fact that I was standing in front of all these people, but it was no use… there were hundreds of them, …AND THEY WERE ALL STARING AT ME!
I was working for a US based IT company and we were launching a new product at an industry trade show. We had worked for months on the presentation agreed I would deliver the keynote and present our masterpiece.
We rehearsed content and timings and I was ready! Finally the day came, I was introduced to the stage and completely tanked.
I forgot most of what I was supposed to say, delivered the whole thing from a stationary position behind the lectern and rifled through my 40-minute presentation in about 15 minutes. It was horrible.
How to present with P-O-W-E-R
Looking back on that first presentation, what I realise now is that while we spent months on the content, we didn’t give any thought to my “mindset” for the delivery.
Fast forward 20 years, and I have now delivered thousands of presentations to audiences as small as two or three, and as large as tens of thousands; even millions if you count live television audiences.
Through my experience, I have developed my own methodology, which I call Communicating with P.O.W.E.R.
Whatever size of audience you speak to you can use P.O.W.E.R. to give your best presentation ever.
P is for Presence
Thanks to Amy Cuddy’s excellent book Presence, there has been a lot focus on body language recently. In her famous Ted talk, she discusses how power posing can actually make you feel more powerful and by using this technique before important events, you will be more successful.
Presence works. In communication however presence is three fold, presence of;
- Body, and
When I say presence of mind, what I mean is developing a mental connection with your audience.
Connect with your audience
This can be as simple as asking a general question that is widely relatable to the audience like, “Have you ever been in a situation where you were forced to make a difficult decision?” “I have, let me tell you about it.” (Are you thinking about a difficult situation now after reading that line?)
Or painting a picture in the heads of your listeners, “As a young boy growing up in Southern California, there was nothing like the fourth of July! Our neighborhood use to have a block party every year and the whole street would spend the day in our front gardens.
To this day, I can still smell BBQ hotdogs and have fond memories of playing baseball with all of our dads in the sandlot next to our cul-de-sac while our mothers sat around chatting and getting all the food ready for us to feast on after the big game.
As soon as it got dark our dad’s then began the DIY fireworks display, each one bigger than the last as they competed for title of “Dad with best fireworks” (can you see it? Do you have a picture in your head?)
Developing this mental connection with your audience is perhaps one of the most important things a speaker can do, and often the thing that is overlooked the most.
Even in corporate presentations, many presenters jump into the facts and figures of their company and/or product and fail to develop a rapport with their audience.
If on the other hand, we spend time to connect, be present in mind, we are priming our audience for what we are about to say.
The importance of your posture and movements
Presence of body starts with Cuddy’s pre presentation power pose, and continues throughout your talk. Thinking about your posture as you stand on stage, and the way you move around the room is key here.
When you are the presenter on stage, you immediately have a position of authority. As we move around the stage, we can anchor the audience to our thoughts based on our position.
For instance, if I move to the left and talk about a recent holiday, the audience will come on the trip with me and have happy thoughts. If I then move to the right and talk about the loss of my mother, the audience will also come on that journey with me and perhaps feel sad.
The next time I move to those spots on the stage, I can elicit the same feelings in my audience with little to no effort. If I plan my stage movements accordingly, then my audience is not only in sync with me, but they are in sync with each other, which enables them to receive the information I am delivering much more effectively.
When we are on stage, we should be mindful of these finer points of our delivery and we should move and speak with purpose and authority.
Use your voice
Finally, presence of voice will further emphasise your position. Our voices are wonderful things and when we speak, they provide light and shade to our stories. When used appropriately, emotion comes through our voices.
Telling a story about how someone cut you off this morning in traffic on your way to the office will have certain inflection and tone. Explaining to someone how to use a TV remote control will have another. Losing a loved one will have yet another and telling a joke at a dinner party will have another.
These voice inflections will all help us to convey our message and when preparing for a presentation, thought should be given to each of them and how to use them appropriately. I have developed a helpful acronym to help you remember:
Speak to the E.A.R.S.
- The Evangelist (think excited TV preacher – think getting cut off in traffic)
- The Architect (think logical, disciplines – how to use the remote control)
- The Romantic (think tenderness, vulnerable – losing a loved one)
- The Stooge (think humour – telling a joke)
O is for Own it
When we are in front of an audience, we must remember that the stories we tell are ours. Whether it’s an after-dinner talk, a motivational speech or a sales presentation, they are our stories to tell and no matter what the size of the audience, story telling is a conversation.
In my workshops I talk about owning your stories, owning your mindset and owning your relationship with your audience. All three of these areas will enable you to become a more confident, more capable speaker.
When we own our mindset, we begin to understand the triggers and behaviors that can potentially throw us off our game. Once we identify these triggers, we can then begin to understand that we are responsible for our metal state, and because of this, we can own our nerves, instead of our nerves owning us.
Finally, when we begin to own our stories and own our nerves then we can see the speaking task in front of us as a conversation and begin to learn to own the relationship with our audience. After all, it’s just a conversation.
W is for What is your purpose
Finding our purpose in speaking is one of the things that make good speakers great.
When we find the thing that we are beyond passionate about, the thing that drags us out of bed in the morning and then drives us throughout the day, and we begin to talk about that thing, naturally, we come to life. Our talks become more engaging and our audience more engaged.
I have heard great talks on everything from what it’s like to be on a space station when it catches fire to the finer points of chartered accountancy and the thing that makes the difference, in both cases, is the passion and purpose of the presenter.
I happen to be passionate about presenting. For me the opportunity to impact an audience is one of the main drivers in my life. What is it for you? You can start defining your purpose by asking yourself some key questions;
- What did you want to be when you were a kid?
- If you were independently wealthy, how would you fill your days?
- What sort of things do you talk to your closest friends about?
Starting with these three questions may not reveal your purpose straight away, but they will definitely put you on the right track!
E is for Evolve your thinking
Evolved thinking begins when you understand that for good or for bad, you will have an impact on your audience. When we are in front of a group of people delivering a talk, without a doubt, the audience will be affected by the stories you tell them.
Perhaps as important, and all too often overlooked is the fact the WE are affected by the stories we tell ourselves. We tend to tell ourselves stories about how we will perform, about how we will feel in front of the crowd and about how we will deliver our material.
For many, this “self talk” can be less than confidence inspiring and have an impact on your delivery. The good news is that we are in control of this self talk, in fact we are the ONLY ones in control of it.
We can control our internal state by simply changing the script we run in our heads. We all have programs in our heads that we run based on input.
Our internal programs are usually created based on our experiences, our values, our memories etc… much like a computer program may have a routine that says when the user pushes the letter A then put a letter A on the screen.
Our internal programs may say something like, “When I am in front of a crowd I get nervous”.
Guess what? We are the programmers of our own minds and evolved thinking will allow us to change the program to be more positive.
“When I am in front of an audience I am confident and will make an impact.” Understanding how our programs are created, and how we can change them will revolutionise your speaking abilities.
R is for Re-imagine Yourself
Re-Imagining yourself becomes a culmination of the other four points discussed. I have worked with a lot of athletes in my career and re-imagination, or visualization is often key to success.
Our brains have trouble differentiating between actual memories and projected memories and visualizing our success in a situation over and over again will implant something special into your subconscious.
Re-imagining yourself as a successful speaker for instance, or delivering a stellar presentation in your upcoming board meeting will give you that extra edge.
After spending some time visualising your success, once you actually come to deliver your speech or presentation, you will have a sense of familiarity because in your mind you have already been there and have seen your own success.
It is my hope that everyone reading this short article will take away some new tools to help you in your speaking journey.
Becoming a great speaker doesn’t happen over night, but with persistence and practice everyone can learn to do things a little bit differently and be more capable and more confident in our day-to-day lives.
The next time you have an opportunity to deliver a speech, presentation, or sales pitch, think about it in these terms and you will soon find your P.O.W.E.R. and will no doubt knock them dead.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Bret Freeman, an award winning international speaker and member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. With 300+ clubs and 7,500 members in the UK and Ireland, find your local club at www.Toastmasters.org
More help on perfecting presentations and talks
You can find lots more tips to help you deliver winning presentations, pitches and and talks in these other ByteStart guides;
- Perfecting your pitch: 10 Principles for entrepreneurs
- Harness the “Power of Three” to nail your pitch
- How to deliver a successful business pitch
- How to deliver ‘rocking’ presentations and pitches that will captivate your audience
- The 3 Golden Principles of public speaking