We all feel pressured at times to perform at work – whether it’s to influence our company to move to a new IT system, or pitch to a potential client and win their business. When it comes to presenting, there are pressures we don’t need. Here are five public speaking myths to debunk now.
1. We need to be an extrovert to be a great presenter
Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks. All are famous introverts, but how is this possible? It is a myth that only extroverts make great presenters. The issue in being a great presenter is not whether you are an extrovert or introvert, but on how willing you are to stand up and share your story with others. Often, those of us who are more introverted have deeper imaginations, ponder more, and think deeply. So, when we do express ourselves, the content can be riveting. If you are naturally introverted, the key is to find a way of presenting that is consistent with your natural communication style rather than try to be someone you are not. How you express yourself comfortably on a one-to-one basis could well be the best method to follow when speaking to a larger group.
2. Planning a great presentation takes considerable time
How many hours, days, weeks, years have gone into changing that font, or getting that picture to whoosh into view for your finale? Much of this is not necessary. Pareto is famous for his 80-20 rule – the idea that, in business, 80% of the results we achieve come from 20% of the activities we do. In the world of presenting, the formula is a more extreme 98-2 rule. 2% of the effort delivers 98% of the benefit. With the right tools (such as a presentation app), you can create a presentation in minutes. The materials you create, whether this is a PowerPoint, should be simple. More and more, we are seeing great presenters who are light on text and heavy on images. Next time you present, make use of pictures and tell the story or message behind each one to your audience.
3. We should have superior knowledge to our audience
We all love to be right, but how can we be? It’s impossible to know everything in your field of work, and that’s okay. It’s important not to claim to be right when speaking if you think you could be challenged. There is nothing wrong with being questioned (in fact it can be a good thing), but you should never put yourself in a position of saying something that is incorrect or nonsense. The key is learning to let go of having ALL the answers. Focus on what you do know and admit to your audience if you there is something you don’t know. Be pleased if you hear the ‘Ah but…’ question from a member of the audience. Not only will this create an interactive audience but the whole group (as well as you) could benefit from new knowledge too.
4. It’s not what we say but how we say it
The myth that body language accounts for 55%, voice 38% and words 7% has already been debunked. What is interesting here is to explore which is more important – the words or the way they are delivered? Words help us make sense of our world and share our thoughts and feelings with others. Without this framework of common understanding, we would probably still be roaming the plains and living in caves. The words ARE important – each choice of word or phrase we use will create an internal picture for the people we are talking to. There is no doubt that body language and tone of voice can reinforce what we say but, if the words themselves do not influence or educate your audience, then you won’t achieve your business aim. Treat body language, tone and words equally. One cannot be effective without the other, but focus on getting your key words right first.
5. We need to get rid of our nerves before we present
Many of has have heard the statistic that talking in public is people’s number one fear. Not only is this feeling normal, it is good – necessary in fact. Yes, the fear of public speaking increases our heart rate and breathing, and feeling of alertness. Why would our brain do this to us? This is what puts us into the state to perform our best. I believe it’s impossible to deliver our top game without it. The key is to welcome these feelings rather than by debilitated by them. It does take time and practice to learn to be comfortable with such nerves but it’s worth it. By being at the edge of our comfort zone – whether through public speaking or any other feared activity – we get a boost of adrenaline and that’s where living really begins…