What is your presentation personality?
What is your presentation personality?
Giving a presentation is, I am told, one of the most stressful activities that anyone can undertake. I am not so sure that I agree, but then, I gave my first presentation when I was at school and I am often called upon in my work to deliver presentations and training courses, so any nerves that I may have had have been calmed by virtue of experience.
I recognise that I have learnt how to be comfortable doing something that other people is the cause of stress.
I suppose that I may appear to other people to be a natural presenter, although that may be a too simplistic an appraisal. My own assessment is that what appears to be a natural talent is the result of some hard learnt lessons:
- Firstly, a long time ago I realised that I was standing at the front of the room with my back to the screen because I knew more about the subject than the people who had come to hear me talk about it.
- Secondly, as time has passed I have realised that I have probably (touch wood) experienced everything that can go wrong when giving a presentation and I am here to tell the stories, so is there really anything to worry about?
Of course, as I acknowledged at the start I have been doing presentations for a long time, so it is unfair to dismiss the concerns of other people who are new to presenting.
If I look back to the start of my career when I worked for a large corporate and was sent on a presentation skills course to learn the standard company approach I realise that things could have been very different for me. Eager as I was to learn something I didn’t realise I already knew I followed all of the instructions that the instructor insisted that I use.
My PowerPoint slides had so much text I could have used them like a TV newsreader uses the teleprompter.
Well that was if I hadn’t been instructed to put all of my notes on little cards that I have to look down at, breaking eye contact with my audience.
Most awkwardly for me, holding these cards in my hands meant that I could not move my hands. This meant that I was at risk of being speechless!
My presentation at the end of the two-day course was as uncomfortable to watch as I am sure it was to deliver.
The training course was something that every manager at a certain level had to complete before they could be considered for promotion, so I should have been pleased someone had seen my potential.
The course was considered important because giving presentations to all kinds of colleagues is an important part of a managers’ role and with the best intentions the company wanted every manager to know how to do it.
Unfortunately, the cookie-cutter approach to presenting adopted by the company put me in a procedural strait-jacket that forced me to act outside my personality and dreading even the mention of the word presentation.
I was confident that I knew my subject and did not need reminder cards, so I threw away them away.
I also knew that pictures tell an audience a thousand words, so I didn’t need a huge amount of words on a slide, I use pictures and key words.
In the same way I realised that I could utilise my body language and the tone of my voice to change how the message I was trying to communicate would be heard, so I learnt how to master these tools.
You will, I hope, not be surprised to hear that when I adopted this approach which was more in-line with my personality my presentations came alive, and I discovered that I was not only good at it, I really enjoy doing presentations as well.
This is what Presentation experts Scott Schwertly and Sunday Mancini describe as a primary presentation style, which is an expression of my psychological makeup and the key to being comfortable when delivering a presentation.
Schwertly and Mancini have described how you can discover your own primary presentation style in their book What’s Your Presentation Persona? Discover Your Unique Communication Style and Succeed in Any Arena.
A free summary of the book is available from Work Place Learning Centre. In the free summary, you will learn, regardless of whether you are new to presenting or an old hand, how you can improve your presentation style by building on the strengths of your personality.
There are, say Schwertly and Mancini, 16 basic presentation personas, each of which has easily identifiable traits, that can define your innate presenting style.
I know from sometimes bitter experience that Schwertly and Mancini are right, understanding ourselves this is the real key to being a confident presenter.
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