Why you do not need to be a “Perfect” presenter
A piece of advice we give during our coaching sessions that many people find reassuring is that you don’t need to be perfect, it is much more important to be yourself.
You do not need to take on a “presenting persona”. Your audience is much more interested in seeing the real you. Be yourself and be genuine. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and don’t be afraid to show your personality.
The more you can relax and be yourself, the more confident you will feel, and the more engaging and effective your presentation will be.
As Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying:
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”
Don’t get me wrong – you still need to do a lot of work to deliver a great presentation. Amongst the key things that will help you be yourself and deliver with impact are: to prepare, to practice, and to use stories.
Below are a few tips on each of these 3 topics.
Make sure you know what you want to achieve from the presentation; what’s the purpose of the presentation?
Do you know what the audience are expecting to “get” from the presentation?
Prepare your content to address both elements.
Make sure your presentation is structured in a clear and logical way. This will help you to keep your audience engaged and on track, and avoid overwhelming them with too much information.
It will also help you to feel more in control and confident.
Ideally practice your presentation skills out loud in front of a real audience. Preferably, find someone who will give you honest feedback. One way you can get this is, before you start your practice run, ask them to look out for 2 things they like and 2 things they might change.
This can also help you to anticipate any potential questions or challenges that may come up.
I know I have mentioned this before, but I will say it again – record yourself on your phone. You can then listen to your content and become familiar with it while walking, working out in the gym or while doing whatever else you do with your headphones in!
By recording yourself it will help you get a sense of how the presentation will sound and will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the pacing, tone, and emphasis of your words.
Time yourself as you practice, making sure your presentation fits within the allotted time frame. This will help you avoid going over or under and will ensure that you have enough time to cover all the important points in your presentation.
Stories not only help get your message across, but also allow you to include a bit more of “the real you”. For example, recently I was making a point to a group that we should be using people’s names when we are trying to make a connection.
In order to drive home the point, I first shared a recent experience I had, in relation to using names. I told the group that I had been in London visiting my 2 daughters, and I had gone into a shop to buy a pair of leggings.
When I went into the dressing room, the assistant there told me her name was Phoebe. She then asked me my name, which she wrote on the outside of the door of the changing room, on a piece of Perspex that was attached to the door.
I shared with the group that I thought this was a very simple, but clever idea as it helped the assistant to add a personal touch by using my name when she was asking if I needed any help.
After I shared the story – I shared the point about using names. So, by telling a simple story, it made the point more real and memorable. It also gave me the opportunity to share a little part of my own personal life.
So, how could you introduce stories in your presentations? One way, is to think of a metaphor or analogy, relevant to your point. For example, you could say that something you saw recently, reminded you of what they are talking about. Say it was a toddler, learning to walk and almost falling over … you could reference the event and analogise it to the team and how they are just beginning to take small steps to the overall goal.
Your stories do not have to be earth shatteringly amazing! So long as they are relevant and help to drive home your point and maybe, just maybe, allow you to add a little piece of your personal self.
It is unrealistic to think you will remember everything you have just read but if you only remember that it is not important to be perfect but more important to be yourself then this blog will have served its purpose!
If you are interested in improving your presentation skills you might like to attend our next Open Presentation Skills Masterclass – see here for details.
This article was originally published in 2017. It is updated here.