Michelle Bowden Presentation Coach

The role of effective public speaking in career growth

This special of article on public speaking was written by Michelle Bowden, presentation and persuasion coach.

Speaking in public is something that’s becoming more and more difficult to avoid. Whether you’re a C-suite leader, a middle manager or a team member, at some stage you’re going to have to report on the progress of that project you’re working on, update people on where you’re up to with your work, or enrol people to your way of thinking in some way.

It doesn’t matter how good your message is if no one’s listening!

You may have thought that you were just running another team meeting, but your team members that morning were hoping it would be a motivational event that would encourage them to work harder and not apply for that job with your competitor. 

You may have thought that this was just another prospective client as you answered the phone to convert the business – but this ‘potential client’ has already spoken to your three closest competitors as they shop around for the best solution to their problem. 

You may have thought that you were just a small part of the picture, just the technical expert with the graphs and charts, but the client was watching the way you presented your information with a plan to refer you to their biggest supplier. 

You may have thought you were just answering another email inquiry that came through your website contacts page, but the person inquiring actually turned over millions of dollars this year and absolutely needed long-term advice. The minute you connected with them they were judging your interpersonal skills.

Presentation Skills really matter!

In case you’re not yet convinced, did you know that in a business context, audience members or clients will typically give you less than 5 minutes to prove yourself before completely switching off?

My research in Australia (conducted with over 800 employees from small, medium and large businesses) has found that if you are an effective business presenter you are in the minority.  When asked about workplace presenters they had seen in the last 12 months;

  • Only 38% of respondents thought presenters understood their needs as a client.
  • More than half the respondents said that presenters generally read from their PowerPoint slides.
  • Only 40% of respondents found presenters to be engaging.
  • Only 28% of respondents said that they were moved to action after seeing presenters.

So what does all this mean?

It means we are typically going to too many boring meetings and workplace presentations where the presenter is not enjoying themselves and the audience is enjoying themselves even less! It’s critical you remember that anyone can be an exceptional presenter. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and doing it.

Every important presentation should be planned, and the good news is that the more practised or accomplished you are at crafting your message, the more efficient and productive you will become.

There are only three phases to exceptional presenting:

1. Analysis – where you work out what you’d like to achieve. This is where you ascertain the current state of your audience as well as your own desired state.

2. Design – where you put your presentation together, making sure that you shift your audience from their current state to your desired state.

3. Delivery – where you communicate the message to your audience so that they are compelled to take action.

This three-phase approach is results oriented. Ultimately, it will help inspire you to:

  1. Step up and really be heard by the people around you.
  2. Structure your message so it’s clear and compelling.
  3. Deliver your message with excellence (no matter how dull you think your subject is!), so that your audience responds positively.

Command attention, gain respect and easily sell your ideas to anyone

It’s conclusive!  If you are not good at presenting in business you need to learn how to do it right now!  Improving your presentation skills will help you to command attention, gain respect and easily sell your ideas to anyone.  And the great news is that it’s not a difficult skill to take charge of and improve immediately! It’s time you started to win more appointments, close more deals and gain more respect in your workplace for your expertise and commitment.  With improved presentation skills you can showcase your professional expertise on a daily basis, accelerate your business, and generally get more of what you want in your life.

Anyone can be an exceptional presenter! 

In my experience, as someone who has trained many thousands of people in persuasive presentation skills over much of the past two decades, anyone can be an exceptional presenter!  It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and doing it.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. Analyse the ‘audience’ before writing out what you’d like to say. What are they thinking, feeling and doing and what change are you trying to create in them?
  2. Learn how to build rapport. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s all about the audience. Make a plan for how you will flex your personality and approach so you are as ‘like’ your audience as possible – that’s what rapport is all about. And, of course, injecting humour is a great way to build rapport quickly!
  3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse to increase your confidence and improve your performance. A typical executive that I would coach in my business will rehearse their opening and closing between 50 and 200 times – yes you read those numbers correctly! Great presenters are made not born.
  4. Warm up before you try to speak so you don’t ‘trip’ over your words. In particular warm up your lips, cheeks and jaw. A rich, resonant vocal quality does wonders for your credibility and makes it easier for people to listen to you.
  5. Design your slides LAST. After you’ve done your analysis and design of the message then craft the slides to reinforce your key points.
  6. Don’t read out your slides to your audience. PowerPoint is a visual aid – it’s not the presentation. 
  7. Use your body to support your message. For example, don’t place your hands over your crotch in what is known as the fig leaf, or reluctant nudist posture! Do try and stand with your hands by your side and gesture as a visual aid when necessary to reinforce your key messages.
  8. Connect with your audience – really ‘see’ them. Look into the whites of their audience’s eyes and truly engage them. This way you’ll be more compelling, you’ll reduce your own nerves and guess what? The secret to an interesting voice is direct, connected eye contact. Focus on your audience at all times. It’s not about you – it’s always ALL about them.
  9. Pause and breathe. This will help your audience to catch up with your ideas, it will give you clarity of thought, a feeling of greater relaxation and it will also help you project your voice more powerfully.
  10.  Ask for what you want so the audience knows what you want them to do as a result of listening to you and be sure that you leave them feeling terrific at the end! 

Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your company is, how good your products or service are, how good your ideas are or how good your message is if no one’s listening.  Improve your presentations skills today and reap the extraordinary benefits!

Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation and persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media.

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