Answer that No One Wants
By Marianne Vincent
Presenters search the world for the answer to this question. “How
do I overcome my nerves and be calm?” Oh, that’s easy
– prepare and practise. But – nobody wants that as an
answer. In fact, it may be difficult to find a more unpopular answer.
Why don’t we want
to practise? Have you heard the line, “If you can read, you
can cook”? We mistakenly believe, “Since I can talk,
I can present.” Talking is not presenting. Be warned: technology
gone awry, or a disgruntled audience – can crush you. That’s
Winston Churchill is
reported to have spent six to eight hours on a 45-minute speech.
Mark Twain said it took him three weeks to prepare an impromptu
speech. The rumour is that Jack Welch wrote 75 drafts for each of
his major speeches. So, who are we to go out there thinking we can
wing it? Yes, you are not being asked to change the world. But if
we are not going to emulate the best, who are we to learn from?
is our excuse. Oh sorry, reason. People who prepare and practise
know something: they can alter the outcome by altering something
about themselves – be it altering their technique to win medals,
or altering their exercise to food ratio to manage their weight.
Once you know that by becoming better you can alter the outcome,
you are hooked. Time suddenly appears, and you may instead, find
it difficult to stop practising.
Once you have practised and prepared,
incubation is equally important.
Many of us can remember
practising the piano or violin, or we’re now sending our children
to classes. We shake our heads – amazed, when after a few
years, they have ‘suddenly’ become pianists, dancers
and athletes. But we are surely too busy with too many responsibilities.
Unseen to us, practice time is strewn all around, and we are missing
it every day. In the hundreds of emails that we write. At every
meeting when we have spoken to make a point. Life is the time to
practise. Once you grasp this idea, you too, can one day, suddenly,
become a really good presenter, writer, thinker, or problem-solver
– whatever it is you have wanted badly enough to alter.
So let us turn now to
several things you can do to be calm and confident for your presentations.
a Conceptually and Logically Sound Text
Words have life, or they can be dead. A presentation needs to be
logical, or you are finished. If there is time to do only one thing
before a presentation, then focus on the concepts you are presenting,
and the logical structure of your text.
Check for conceptual
‘tightness’: if you are presenting concepts, make sure
they are sound. Also, take time to depict the concepts well. This
makes it easier to explain them later, and for your audience to
Check for logical ‘tightness’:
check that every part of your presentation flows logically to the
next. For example, do the topic and points flow logically from the
opening words? Check the logic within each point. Every time your
audience is mentally adjusting for gaps in logic, they are not with
you. If there are too many of these, they may shut off. Worse still,
if they get irritated with logical flaws, they may start pointing
them out. Not a recipe for calmness.
It might sound like a cliché, but questions can make or break
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Vincent is the developer of Presentations Alive™
and several other original People Potential workshops. No
stranger to practice and performance, Marianne started with
the piano at age five. A concert pianist by training, anyone
who knows her well will tell you she is almost always learning
and practising something. Currently it’s the cello,
yoga, and writing.