Obligatory Sports Metaphor Blog Post

May 6, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Managing Nerves, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

As I’ve been coaching both new and seasoned business presenters, two particular athletic analogies have proven really useful. (Full disclosure: I know stuff about sports, but it’s hardly my pastime of choice.) See if these resonate with you, and use them to help with the emotional / mental preparation you do to get ready to present.

To deal with nerves and manage energy. Nervousness with presentations seems to manifest itself in one of two barbara_egel_132_BWbroad ways: Either people’s nervous energy takes over and they lose control of their voices and bodies—talking too much or too fast, running out of breath, making unwanted facial expressions, and/or moving their feet in odd ways, among other things; or, they pull inward as though their whole bodies have been Botoxed—they forget how to smile, their voices retreat into inaudibility, their arms are glued to their sides, and they speak in a monotone.

Our engagement techniques—eye contact and pausing—help immensely once the presentation begins. But in the moments before you get up to speak, think about athletes. If you play(ed) a team sport, remember that moment between leaving the locker room and taking the field? The coach has pumped you up, you and your teammates are of one mind, your muscles are warm, and you are ready to explode into the game. You have nervous energy, sure, but it’s a good thing. It’s what will keep you pumped up but in control, jazzed enough to run up and down the court and steady enough to sink a three-pointer when the ball comes your way. This is the feeling you want just before you present. Turn that nervous energy to your advantage to keep yourself engaged, loose, and playing your best game.[Tweet “Remember that moment between leaving the locker room and taking the field?”]

To get comfortable with eye contact (or pausing, but mostly eye contact). Some of our learners have taken public speaking classes in the past and were told things like, “scan the room” or “look at the tops of people’s heads” so it appears you are making eye contact. To be truly engaged, you must make real eye contact and connect with your listeners. Often, when I prescribe eye contact as someone’s primary engagement technique, they tell me they understand in theory how it can work, but it’s really uncomfortable to do. This is when I talk about baseball (or golf or tennis).

When you’re a kid messing around in your backyard, all you do is grab the bat and stand kind of like you’ve seen on TV. If you’re naturally athletic, you might hit it pretty well, and you’ll keep that batting stance because it works for you. If you then start to play Little League and meet up with a batting coach, it’s highly likely he will change your stance—bending your knees more, moving your hands down on the bat, holding it higher or further from your body than you’re used to. Initially, you balk at this because it feels weird. You won’t have any power or control, your wrists hurt, and should you really be feeling your butt muscles this much playing baseball? Over time though, you get used to the new stance and discover you not only have more control but you get better distance, speed, and height on the ball.

Eye contact and pausing work the same way. At first, it feels weird and like all the stuff that’s worked okay for you in the past is being taken from you. But over time, you’ll discover that you’re getting noticeably better: more in control, more engaged, more conversational.[Tweet “Over time, you’ll discover that you’re getting noticeably better.”]

And you’ll be knocking it out of the park on the regular.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation”

Applying what you Learned in Presentation Skills Class

September 29, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation

This question was submitted by Nick through our Ask an Expert forum, which all workshop participants have access to after attending one of our workshops.  Since it brings up a common concern, I’ll answer it here on the blog for others to see.

QUESTION:
I recently delivered a presentation and found that I forgot to use many of the lessons I learned in the workshop.  I found myself relying too heavily on my slides and not having a conversation with the audience. This was a bit disappointing because I thought I was making progress since the workshop.  Any suggestions on practicing or creating slides that forces me to be more of the Improviser and not the Writer?

ANSWER:
First, I want to say that it’s really a good thing that you’re more self aware during your presentations.  That’s an important first step.  Of course when we gain self awareness we also gain the knowledge that we don’t always do what we planned to do.  But try not to be disappointed.  You’re on the right track.

That said, let’s take a look at your presentation issues.  Like most people with the Writer Default, you’re struggling with the transition from preparation to delivery.  So, be sure to prepare your slides with delivery in mind.  Create meaningful slide titles that, when read during delivery, will launch the conversation you want to have.  Keep your slides simple and to the point.  That means editing them mercilessly.

Next, don’t practice to come up with the single, perfect explanation.  It will mess you up during delivery.  Instead try to get comfortable explaining your slides in a variety of ways, imagining a variety of listeners.  That will improve flexibility.

When you deliver your slides, give your audience an overview of each, then go into the details.  If the slide has a list of bullet points, read through them.  If the slide has an image or data, tell your listeners what they’re looking at.  This will focus their attention on the screen when the slide first appears.  After the overview, it’s your responsibility to turn back to your audience and continue the conversation.  It’s sort of like show-and-tell because you’re showing people the slide, then talking about what it means.

As you continue to deliver presentations, don’t worry about everything at once.  You’ll overwhelm yourself.  Tackle one issue at a time.  For example, go into your next presentation with the goal of using your slide titles better.  Or remembering to move toward your listeners after you’ve delivered the overview of each slide.  Stay focused on changing one behavior at a time.  Long-term improvement will follow.

To help with that, take advantage of the feedback you received post-workshop through eCoach.  Both the follow-up letter and the video comments available there will help you stay focused.  Our goal with eCoach is to help you prioritize.  Review you follow-up letter before your next presentation.  And be sure to take a look at the video exercises from the second day of class.  That’s when we were working on slide delivery.  Watching them again will remind you of what it felt like to successfully manage your Default Approach.

Thanks for your question.  Let me know how you’re doing.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication