How to be authentic in presentations!

As the LinkedIn Agency Influencer program kicks off for 2017 we share a post from the overall winner of last year's program, GroupM's Greg Graham. In a series of posts he gave a deep-dive on his point of expertise - how to present in front of audiences authoritatively and genuinely.

For some, public speaking comes easily. For others, it can be an anxiety-inducing exercise that ends badly. There are many ingredients that contribute to a successful presentation, and being authentic is one of the most important.

Greg Graham was last year’s LinkedIn Agency Influencer winner

It may sound like a 21st century mantra, but the best advice I can give anyone walking into a presentation is be yourself, be natural and be real. Then step it up a notch – amplify ‘you’ and your personality in the most positive way you can.

Some people go into ‘presentation’ mode when you put them in room-full of colleagues or potential clients. By that, I mean they morph into a bland robotic version of themselves. I’ve seen it time and again: the serious tone, monotonous voice and awkward hand gestures. The combined effect is for the audience to tune out.

So avoid any preconceived notions you may have about what a presenter should sound like and be authentic instead. Learn how to use your voice for emphasis and when to pause for dramatic effect or to let the thoughts settle in. Film yourself and watch it. Most people cringe at the thought of this, but it’s important. Analyse your voice, your body language and any facial tics or other speaking quirks you may have. And fix them.

When I first started presenting, I would talk at a million miles an hour in an effort to overcome my nervousness. I had to learn to slow down and pause. A presentation coach can help you iron out the nervous quirks and finesse your own style.

Of course, to be authentic and let the real you shine, you have to conquer your nerves. While nerves are a positive sign that you care and are passionate about your subject, they can get in the way of your story and block your message from reaching your audience. Here are my top five tips for managing your nerves:

1.      Be prepared: know your facts, know your audience, anticipate questions (including mean and tough ones) and practice, practice, practice.

2.     Master your breathing: learning how to breathe when you present is not as intuitive as you may think. Take up yoga or meditation and learn how to use deep breathing to calm your nerves.

3.     Find what works for you: for me, it was to play a video early on in my presentations. It’s an opportunity to calm myself down, but also a way of building rapport with the audience by showing them something light-hearted and positive.

4.    Find a friendly face in the audience and present to them: it’s amazing how something so simple can banish those pesky nerves.

5.    Project a positive energy: be magnanimous, thank other people, and be humble. Your audience will respond with their own positive energy and better still, they’ll openly receive your message.

As for the question of notes versus memorising your speech, do what works for you. If you need notes to refer to quickly, go ahead. Whatever makes you comfortable and keeps those nerves in check can only be a good thing.

Greg Graham is group marketing officer at GroupM


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