How to: Be Yourself, even in a presentation
“Be yourself – everyone else is already taken”, one of my favourite quotes by Oscar Wilde.
It popped into my head, during a recent yoga holiday with my better half. The photo to the right is us doing our own version of the Tree Pose… hopefully no yoga teachers will be reading this! We most certainly are not doing it right. But, we are doing it our own way and being ourselves.
Over the course of the holiday, as we chatted to others on the trip – the topic of being yourself came up several times. There were discussions about how sometimes a partner or a job, can turn us into a different persona. Sometimes this persona can be at odds with what we feel to be our true persona.
Often, during presentation coaching sessions with clients, I see them struggling to be themselves. The struggle can be for many reasons. The tips below address some of the reasons why they struggle & how to overcome them.
1. Freaking out over doing a Presentation
I dislike the word presentation. In fact I dislike it intensely. I know it probably sounds crazy – especially as helping people present with confidence is my passion & my business!
Let me explain why I dislike the word presenting.
Many people tell me that they have no problem communicating one to one. In other words, they have no problem having a conversation. However, if there is a room full of people who are there to hear them present – then, they freak out.
Maybe this sounds familiar?
So, here is the thing you need to do: think of having a conversation. Imagine your audience as a cluster of individuals listening to you. When you speak, look at one person & have a conversation with them for a few seconds. Then look to another person & have a conversation with them for a few seconds.
Stop think of giving a presentation, rather view it as having a conversation, albeit with a number of people at the one time.
2. Feeling that you sound like a different person
Often this happens, because you do end up sounding like a different person!
I regularly see this, when I’m interacting with attendees on a programme, they have great voices. By this I mean, there’s variety in the tone, pace, speed, energy so they are easy on the ear.
Then when they stand up to speak- they turn on their ‘presenter ‘ voice.
Usually, when they have finished presenting (and I have the camera still rolling), I ask a question, not necessarily related to what they have spoken about. For example, what they like to do in their spare time. They come out of ‘presenter’ voice and into their natural voice. This voice is much easier on the ear. It also makes them sound more natural.
Well, funny enough, the solution is the same as the previous solution above. Have a conversation – your voice will feel more natural. Think about it, over 90% of our spoken words are in conversations, of one shape or another. Therefore, in conversation mode, we feel more like ourselves.
3. Being unable to use their hands naturally
The one question that I always get asked. “What should I do with my hands”?
I see people struggle so often, with where to put the hands. They put them in their pocket, behind their back, clasp them in front or maybe even cross their arms.
When I was much younger and had not had professional presentation skills training, I used to hold a pen. I felt I used it in the same was as a baby uses a dummy or soother. It just felt like a comforter. I had something constructive to do with my hands … fiddle with the pen! Even though I knew it was not the right thing to do. I did it, because it felt so much better than having my hands idle.
Well, funny enough, the solution is the same as the 2 previous solutions above. I don’t know about you, but I never see people chatting – in a restaurant, a bar, or on the street, wondering what they will do with their hands.
Why is that?
Because they are just having a conversation and letting the hands do what comes naturally. In a presentation, if you start with some sort of an open handed gesture, your hands are likely to take on a life of their own. Watch the gestures you use in your normal habitat and incorporate them into your presentations. This video here, has some detail on where to put your hands, if there is a time during your conversation when you are not using them.
When you can start having conversations and forget about ‘presenting’ you are much more likely to look and feel like yourself.
If you want to get some professional presentations coaching, either as an individual or part of our group programmes do give us a shout!
By the way, if you know someone who might enjoy this blog or find it of benefit – why not send it on? You might just make their day!