Have you ever had this experience? You're fresh out of school, into a new job, and have to make a presentation to a room full of senior managers. Or perhaps you have to convince a senior client executive of a business case. The thought of that got your palms sweaty and your heart rate going up?
You're not alone! Many of us fear presentations. And while we think that introverts may fear presentations more - that's not exactly true. Even the most confident corporate honchos I know get nervous speaking to a large audience.
The thing is this, are there some basic guidelines or skills that a presenter should know about? Particularly if he or she is shy or introverted.
Well, in this article, I'd like to highlight 6 important presentation skills for introverts. Hopefully, this will help those of you who've always feared presentations and enhance your performance at your next presentation.
And yes, I know - many, many people have written about presentation skills before - what I want to provide here is some unique perspective I've seen based on my experiences as a consultant project manager / business analyst in Asia. I hope it helps you out! These tips really work!
A few basic presentation skills will help introverts present better
One of the best pieces of advice I have for introverts who need to do major presentations is this - stand up! Yes, literally stand up when presenting.
Standing up helps generate positive energy in you. It forces your body to pump some adrenaline throughout your system.
You wake up. And you're more alert and focused on whatever your audience is asking or interested in.
And the best thing is, this doesn't just apply to presentations! You can do it for meetings, for workshops, or any informal brainstorming meeting you have. Do you notice that you generate a lot more ideas when you're standing up?
Case Study: I was once a rookie consultant and basically sat through all the workshops I facilitated with my clients. It wasn't until later in my career that I discovered that was BAD thing. I appeared less energetic, my audience trailed off and were bored.
But once I stood up to talk and started drawing on the board, my audience's attention span lasted longer. And they were also more involved and aware of what I was talking about.
The next rule for presentations? Don't read off the slides. That's just plain lazy! I see many of my junior consultants do up very pretty PowerPoint slides, but in the end squander all of it away by reading off the text on the slides!
Don't read off the slides.
What's on the slide can be read by the audience themselves.
It shows you don't want to elaborate or share more about each point you're making.
Instead, what I tend to do is to share something NOT on the slide whenever I'm talking. For example, I may have a slide like the one below.
I'd try to give "real life" examples, e.g. "We were doing something similar in Bank ABC three years back. In that project, the users got really worried about how to mark to market their derivative positions, etc."
Injecting a story, or real-life example related to the slide being discussed is ALWAYS GOOD. I try to prepare these little points BEFORE the presentation.
I have a little mantra that I recite in my head whenever I have to do a major presentation. Usually, I go to the washroom before the presentation and just mumble off a phrase in my head.
It goes like this:
"Be calm, be helpful and be energetic"
Those words are pure gold to a presenter. Let me elaborate.
Be calm. Nerves can really kill a presentation. I've see solid presenters start off great, then trail off with a small, whiny voice later in their presentations. That is usually due to nerves or forgetting what one has to say.
I usually prepare and practise my presentations the night before, or the same morning of the actual presentation. In front of a mirror. And I imagine the whole room of people there.
And on the actual day, I remind myself to stay calm mentally.
Be helpful. What does the audience want from your presentation? They want you to HELP THEM. They're not there to listen to you ramble or read off bullet points. They want to know what's in it for THEM.
So I always position my presentation speech to help my audience. If they ask a question, I always think "How can I help him / her?". I don't react negatively like, "Oh shucks, there's another question - when will this end?!".
Case Study: In my line of work, I share best practices with clients. For example, two of the most common questions I get as a consultant to banks are "How do other banks do it?", or "What's the best practice out there?"
I always try to think along these lines and share something that HELPS my client. If they want to know how reconciliation is done by other banks, I'll tell them other banks may use auto-reconciliation systems. Or I may tell them others do it manually. The client is after this kind of insight. It helps them do their job better. And I can provide more value if I help them.
Be energetic. This is related to standing up. Energy is important. The audience can tell if you're sleepy, distracted and can't be bothered with the presentation.
Learn to smile, widen your eyes and look intently at the audience. Yes, you need to be a bit deliberate about this - but over time, you will get used to it. You'll also find your own style of exhibiting energy. Some do it by gesturing a lot. Other presenters put their facial expressions to good use.
Another great tip is to imagine you're speaking to just one person. Very often, when we're presenting to say, thirty people, we tend to clam up and start speaking to the "audience".
Don't do that.
My advice is to this. In your head, pick out one or two members of the audience and use them as your target for speaking. Speak to the audience as if you're speaking to these one or two persons alone.
It's almost like having coffee with someone one on one. You should speak to the audience like you're having that one-on-one coffee. You'll talk more naturally and also appear more sincere.
When I was starting out in my consulting career, I rambled a lot. I'd make a point, but then spend maybe five to ten minutes more on the same topic.
Remember, the audience of your presentations (usually senior management) do not like rambling. It's disrespectful of their time. Make sure you go through your points, tell your stories and give your examples.
But then stop. Give the audience time to process the information. And if they have no questions, move on. You can discuss nitty gritty details offline.
I also find that presenters need to be aware of the presentation "logistics". If you're given a twenty minute time slot to speak, make sure you stick to that time slot. Don't over-run your time.
To ensure this, you need to be able to do facilitation. What I mean here is that if your audience is asking too many questions, or the whole room is getting hung up on a point you discussed, you should feel free to interject and say "That's a great point. Let's discuss that offline - I'll note it down as a follow-up point".
And if the discussion still continues after that, then you need to be progressively more forceful and say "I understand there are more questions but in the interest of time, we have to move on. Let's cover those topics offline".
In essence, learn to control and facilitate the presentation. Don't let it control you.
Great! I hope the above 6 important presentation skills for introverts have been useful to you. You know, if you're shy or introverted, you don't have to give up and think you just can't present or convince your audience of anything.
All it takes is practice. And if you follow the above guidelines when presenting, you'll find that you CAN do a much better job. If you hone these skills year after year (as I have) - sooner than later you'll be able to present quite impressively.
That's all I have for now. Until next time, have fun learning how to do great presentations!
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