Surveys typically indicate that between 72-75% of the population fears public speaking. I have worked with many of these individuals who, as executives in large organizations, can’t afford that fear. They are required to present to rooms of hundreds (and even thousands) of people regularly.
I know, because we have spent weeks together, as we co-wrote their content, developed their visuals for maximum impact, and I coached them through their body language and confidence. As I was helping them, it was obvious that the last thing these executives were thinking about was building their personal brand. They just wanted to get through the presentation successfully. But brand building is what we were doing when we achieved that.
Today, most small business owners and start-ups have more demand to speak publicly than ever before. Whether it is creating an online class, social media videos, podcasting, presenting to a networking group, or speaking at a larger conference – the options to visibly represent your brand today are endless. So are the opportunities to shrink back from the spotlight, turning it off of yourself, rendering you invisible. This is as debilitating to your brand as presenting poorly.
So let’s look at how you can turn down the volume on your fear, and lean into the most powerful tool for building your personal brand – speaking with authority.
Presentation Tips to Ensure You Deliver Great Content In Every Engagement
When you are asked to speak, it is actually too late to begin developing your content. Start now, and never stop, so you own your content without even thinking about it.
If you are familiar with the movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, you know the line: A.B.C. Always Be Closing. What great presenters know is they must Always Be Presenting.
If you are constantly thinking in terms of giving your next great presentation, then you begin practicing in every conversation you possibly can—building your brand content every day, day in and day out. In fact, several of the executives I write speeches for do this. As they are providing input, they are practicing their content before it is even written. I hear them in meeting with their customers and teams, practicing again. These individuals get it. Here’s what they have made part of their conversational DNA:
Their brand values, which show up in everything they say and do
Their vision for the future – where are they headed?
Awareness of exactly who needs to hear what they have to offer. They speak to those people in language that resonates.
A key problem (or up to four problems) they can solve, and how they are doing that
Great stories that prove their value and the value of their solution
1-3 calls to action for their audience, to be done as a result of the conversation
When you keep these frames of reference in mind all the time, you will find it natural to assemble them into a 20, 30, or even 45-minute presentation easily. Typically, there are 3-5 presentations any of us can develop that approach our core ideas from different angles for various audiences.
For example, I can speak on creating killer presentations, or I can speak on building an unstoppable personal brand. Both presentations contain variations on similar talking points, which appeal to different audiences.
How to Be Confident Every Time You Present
You don’t need to be outgoing or an extrovert to speak with confidence. You do need to believe in your content, as well as its value to your audience. If you don’t believe in your message, then there is little you can do. So, begin there. Focus on your core competency and expertise.
Once, as a less experienced leadership speaker, I was asked to present to a kennel club. While I referenced terms that loosely tied to our canine friends, such as “Leader of the Pack,” the presentation fell flat. They wanted experts in training and medical needs for their dogs. And while I love my rescue mutt dearly, I was not that person. My message, while valuable, was not valuable to that particular audience, no matter how I spun it.
The second confidence booster is to give your audience what you want them to give to you. This is all about your energy. If you want them to smile at you, smile at them. If you want them to engage with you, engage with them. Drop the formal wall between you. Walk into the crowd if the logistics allow for it (A caveat to this: if you are presenting in a large, professionally lit general session, stay on the stage in the lighting provided by the AV company, and don’t complain about the light in your eyes. Adapt to the grand scale of that level of presenting.)
If you want them to adore you, then, you guessed it – adore them first. Compliment them. Encourage them. Bring them with you and your content. Even the most serious topics benefit from a passionate and compassionate presenter.
Remember, when you take the microphone, you are the most powerful person in the room. Your audience wants to follow you, so lead them. If you don’t, they will disengage. Conserve your energy, because it takes less effort to lead them out of the gate, rather than waiting for them to give you permission.
Give Them What They Want
Your audience wants to know what’s in it for them to exchange their time and attention. Although you know what you want them to know, be aware they might want to know something else first. What is that? Keep the audience’s perspective front and center at all times.
This is the essence of brand loyalty. We are loyal to the brands that see us, know us, understand us, and serve us in the way we want to be served. Your audience is always your customer for the duration of your time on stage.
For example, many executive presentations are about asking (or demanding) the audience sell more, or embrace change, or adopt a new technology/product/process. That’s natural and important for them to speak about. However, it will fall on deaf (or defensive) ears if they fail to also communicate the benefit to the audience for doing the things they are asked. Perhaps the change will provide additional income opportunities? Or maybe the new technology will make them more productive? Whatever it is, tell your audience what’s in it for them more than once during your presentation.
Don’t Wear Your Pajamas to The Board Meeting
Personal branding is partly about how you sound, and it is partly about how you look. Unfortunately, I know too many presenters (myself included) who are overly sensitive about their physical appearance when they take the stage. Although it’s great if you are in the best physical shape of your life, your body shape is the least important aspect of your presentation appearance. Here’s what is the most important, in order:
Your outfit needs to reflect the group’s general attire, at its dressiest. This shows respect, and connection simultaneously.
Your clothes need to fit well, be comfortable, and not distract from your content with too much pattern or contrast. (blue and red are both great colors to wear when presenting)
Use confident body language, even if you aren’t feeling it. When you adopt the confident stance, your brain begins to believe you actually are. Some examples are:
stand in one spot as you share one idea, then move to another spot for the next idea
speak slowly and give yourself pauses
gesture with your hands
make eye contact
lean towards the audience as you deliver key ideas.
For goodness sake – if you are using slides, make them look amazing! Don't slap something together on the plane or the night before. Bad clipart will never be funny or attractive. Multi-colored fonts are painful to look at. Also, not only is it illegal to grab images belonging to others off the internet, it is also likely to be poor quality. There are countless free stock imagery sites. Use them. And be aware about what your audience does with tiny text – they try to read it, then tune out if they can’t. If they can, they stop listening to you in order to read it! Keep your slides few and very visual. I could write an entire blog on slide design (and probably will in the near future) – but your slides are part of your outfit, and your brand appearance.
With these presenting tips, you can make a powerful presentation you feel confident about. However, if you want help with the details, such as developing your signature talk, designing killer slide graphics that deliver top tier professionalism, or feel the need for a coach to help you refine and present confidently in any situation, set up a complimentary discovery session for yourself. You are worth it.