One day last week I was running a bit late, because a previous meeting had started late and I was rushing across town to the next one because I hate being the one to turn up last.. Anyway I had higher heels on than usual – don’t ask me why –
and if that wasn’t bad enough I got a stone in my shoe. I was in a hurry and in the street so didn’t want to take my shoe off.
I know that sounds daft but I just carried on walking and tried to ignore it.
But because this tiny piece of gravel then exerted concentrated pressure on the same part of my foot, over and over, as I carried on walking the stone seemed to grow bigger and it became more and more annoying. Eventually I couldn’t think about anything else – except the small rock I now seem to be lugging around in my shoe.
So, what has this got to do with presenting?
Most of us have little mannerisms and verbal tics that we don’t really notice .
I remember the first time I was ever videoed teaching. I spent the entire time clicking a pen and I was totally unaware of it!
These mannerisms become more obvious and are accentuated when we’re under pressure.
And, even though we’re not always conscious of it, presenting can be a stressful situation.
During presentation skills coaching sessions with my clients I often notice things that people do that they are totally unaware of.
Sometimes it’s the obvious umms and ers, but usually it is more subtle. Repeated use of ” kind of” or “ok” (that used to be one of mine) or similar phrases, involuntary glances upwards, sniffing, shuffling around – all sorts of things.
These are often things that we use occasionally under normal circumstances and are less obvious when there are several people involved in a discussion.
But we tend to use them more when we’re stressed or under pressure.
And when are presenting their effect is not ‘diluted’ by the involvement of other people -the focus is completely on you: what you are saying and what you are doing.
Why does it matter?
Well all of these things are distractions for your audience.
Like the stone in the shoe they can eventually become the focus of your audience’s attention to the point that they can’t think about anything else and certainly not the message you are trying to get across.
To stop this happening you need honest and unbiased feedback on how you deliver when presenting.
You may be able to get this from colleagues; but it’s not always easy to criticize a workmate, or worse still your boss, however constructive your comments might be.
You might also think about engaging a specialist presenting coach who will help you iron-out these unwanted features of your presenting style – and ensure the focus is on your message rather than your mannerisms.
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