Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Yes, at home.  If you get caught trying this in the work loo, your colleagues will recommend a psychiatrist.

This is for you if you suffer from symptoms of nervousness that are obvious to your audience. Examples: a nervous smile, a tremor in your voice, speaking too fast and without pauses, a twitch, or very little body language, a reluctance to look directly into people's eyes.  If any of your symptoms are like those, then this cure might work for you.

  1. Pick a serious topic you could speak about for about 20 seconds.
  2. Imagine what you would look and sound like if you were even more nervous than usual. Now look in the mirror and speak, deliberately exaggerating your nervous symptoms. (Just exaggerate slightly, don't turn yourself into a clown.)  What you're doing is externalising and objectively noticing your own symptoms.
  3. Reverse it. Strongly imagine what you would look and sound like if you were confident and really wanted the audience to get your message. What would you be doing with your eye and head language? Your hands and arms? The rest of your body? How firm would your voice be?   Now look in the mirror and do that.
  4. Alternate 2 and 3, until you're comfortable with 3. Now think to yourself, Could I make that (3) happen in front of a real audience?

The method works for two reasons.  First, you're showing your own brain the difference in symptoms between nervousness and confidence.  Second, by practising the symptoms of confidence, you're building into your brain the circuitry of confidence. 

Keep building and the act turns into reality. Make confidence a habit.

Of course it's not about the blank screen itself, but what you're doing at the time.

First, you need to know how utterly simple it is to go to blank screen. EITHER... on the clicker, press the blank screen button (most presenters don't know it's there).  OR... on the keyboard, press the 'B' button.  Either way, just press the same button again to return your slide to the screen. The button-pushing is not a problem.  (For an even smoother and more professional method, look for my blog PowerPoint Tip 10: How to insert a black slide.)

Now, picture this:

  1. As your presentation starts, you're standing directly in front of your audience, with nothing on the screen.  You're directly connected to the people in front of you. When it's time for the first slide, you move to the side to talk about it.
  2. From now on, when a slide is no longer directly and immediately relevant to what you're saying, you blank the screen again, moving back in front of the audience to re-establish your full connection with them.

Audiences want that. They want you in charge and they want you directly tuned into them.

So why aren't all presenters doing it already?

Because it takes courage - especially when you've been used to using PowerPoint as a crutch. When we face our audience directly, we feel vulnerable. That's why so many presenters step to one side, turning themselves into voice-only robots, us into comatose zombies, and the message into dust. 

How to get a dose of that courage? See the rest of my blogs on this website.

Wait! You think your entire presentation has to be on the screen?  That's rarely true, not even in full-on conferences. Please take another look at all your slides and ask yourself, Which way will this content have more impact? By adding my voice to what is on the screen? Or by delivering it while looking the audience in the eye?  Be especially ruthless with word-only slides, which have near zero impact.

For now, if you like that picture of yourself in 1. and 2. above, here's a final tip. Get hold of a projector in advance and practise the movements. Better still, get a friend to watch and give you feedback. Get your body and brain used to it.

Then, for the real thing, look forward to audiences impressed by your increased personal authority.

 

 

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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