Presentation Secrets

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As they say, life's 3 biggest fears are:
1. Public Speaking
2. Death
3. Death while Public Speaking

What position are you in??? You have never been through a public speaking class, nor got enough exposure on job. Yet, you are technically very sound. The business world needs you and your expertise, but you, although willing to share, can't do it effectively.

You feel that the audience is getting bored with every sentence you deliver. This terribly affects your self-esteem as a professional.

Not any more - as I've decided to give away my professional training secrets to all you champion professional.

I discovered the magic when I was in university. My friends used to work on reports all day and night, and I was always requested to present their findings in class (as they were amongst those intelligent people, who had the above mentioned fears). Surprisingly for everyone, despite I doing or knowing nothing, scored A (mostly), and that my friends would end up having B's and C's with rare A's. Yet they kept on doing the same thing, till we graduated. I don't know what they are up to now, As professionals...

Having been occupied at-least 150-times-a-year, for-profit training professional, I offer these advices:

1. Practice makes better. Obvious as it sounds, too many ignores it. There are damn few natural composers, actors or cricketers. And there are no natural speakers -- at least I've never came across any. You get better at speaking by speaking, and speaking. It takes 10 years of tough training to become a journeyman physicist, so why should you expect to pick up sophisticated presentation skills by just reading stuff about it! But remember the words - ‘practice makes better', not perfect. A perfect presentation is yet to be delivered... and it can't be done anyways.

2. Forget all the conventional "rules" but one. Frankly, most laws of speechmaking -- keep your hands out of your pockets, don't say "uh," don't show your back to the audience, don't move around too much - is all garbage. But there is one golden rule: Stick to topics you deeply care about, and don't keep your passion buttoned inside your vest. An audience's biggest turn on is the speaker's obvious enthusiasm. That's as true for a pitch to purchase a PKR 1,000,000 software rights as it is for a plea to give a small donation. If you're lukewarm about the issue, forget it! Passion sells more then any other rule.

3. Stories, stories, more stories. Charts and graphs have their place, and a pretty prominent one in many business presentations. Nonetheless, even an analytically inclined audience will remember one touching story or a real life case, long after forgetting your multicolored bar chart. The best speakers, president or Ph.D. chemist, lavishly illustrate their talks with short, striking stories. In fact, the most potent speeches are often little more than strings of such stories, loosely linked by an outline. Stories help your audience to connect with you, and so you can't afford to miss on this.

4. For heaven's sake, don't write it out! If spontaneity isn't everything, it verges on it. That hardly means winging it: Careful preparation spawns spontaneity. But it does mean never, ever writing it out in full. If you do, you become a slave to your exact wording and inevitably lose 75 percent of any emotional impact. You must realize that your audience is interested in knowing what you have to say - not what you have to read.

5. Don't even think about getting it "right." It's been quite a hectic roller-coaster training and presentation experience for me, from five minutes to five days (with breaks!) in length; I've yet to be satisfied with one of them. But tomorrow is another day. Forget the "this is my only chance to shine" baloney. If you're worth a darn, you'll get lots of chances to shine -- and that one, 10-minute appearance in THE BOARDROOM, at age 28, won't decide your career. If you believe "this is it," you'll be so tight you'll swing before the pitcher even finishes his wind up.

6. Breathe! I'm no pro when it comes to meditation. I get flush and breathless before any speech, to this day. One answer is to close your eyes (or not), and take five or 10 deep breaths (even in front of others) before going up on stage to take on that huge crowd. It works - at least for me it does.

7. Get away from the podium. You're probably not a stiff around the office, and almost certainly not at home. Why be a stiff when you're making an important presentation? Put your notes on index cards (written in bold letters if your eyes, like mine, ain't getting younger), so you won't be nailed to the lectern. Then wander -- around the table, into the crowd, about the platform. Look comfortable and your audience will be more comfortable too. The best of you comes when you are absolutely normal.

8. Loosen up, you're not going to convince them anyway. Speeches aren't about turning arch enemies into cheering supporters. Presentations are mainly opportunities to reassure those who already agree with you that you're a horse worth betting on. The heart of board or committee work is one-on-one discussions before any formal discourse. So try to relax and enjoy yourself, to present "excited you" as excited you -- which is just what the audience wants.

I hope, with this set of tips, you'll love yourselves as presenter. All the best - and cheers for your great presentation in advance!

Sohail Zindani is a Corporate Trainer, Coach, Motivational Speaker & Chief Learning Officer at

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