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Often when people ask how to be “professional” in public speaking they’re asking the wrong question. We often have an idea of what a professional public speaker looks and sounds like. We think we have to fit the same mold as the PowerPointed and suited up looks of the professional type of speaker where there is very little personality seen. This is absolutely and unequivocally not true. Here's why...
The real meaning of 'Professional' is effective, not stiff and starchy.
Yet when we're caught up in the turmoil of "what might they think about me?" it's easy to fall into the trap of wanting to hide our personalities and look and sound like everyone else.
It's what I hear every day from clients who worry about whether they're looking 'professional enough' when they're presenting.
Do you recognise any of these feelings around your own presentations?This is important - I must make sure I look the partI just want to get through it without making a fool of myselfI must make sure I know everything about my subjectI can't let them think I'm frivolous / frothy / lacking in substanceThe boss is coming... so it has to be seriousWhere's my Powerpoint? That will make me look professional... and so on.
Typical 'professional' approach to giving a presentation, right?
But hold on a minute.
If we think about the purpose of a presentation, it's that the audience gets a message from you. They want to learn, to understand, to experience something as a result of you having spoken.
Fitting in with everyone else by sticking to the usual format of, “Here is my bullet pointed numbered and outlined in red presentation” without emotional connection or voice inflection, or any personality whatsoever actually has the opposite effect - it makes it more difficult to learn from a speaker. Our memory latches onto things that are:
1) Emotionally resonant with us and 2) unique or memorable in some way. It’s actually unprofessional to keep the audience at a distance by presenting a cold, calculated speech as it doesn’t allow the audience to connect with you and ultimately your message. So to be a true presentation pro, we want to see your emotion and something from you that makes your material stick out.
Ditch the old concept of being professional in your presentations. Instead look to finding your own personal style and your true professional confidence in what YOU have to offer. Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s speaking style.
This is what the truly great professional speakers do… they don’t fit in with the crowds, they find their own style that is most effective for them.
Don’t over prepare. Reading a speech word for word, in actuality or even just in your head, has the same effect as the stuffed shirt syndrome. Prepare your argument (why you’re telling your speech in the first place) and then plot points along the way. Think of it like villages you might pass whilst driving to your main destination.
These points will be connected together by the words that you use but you won’t know exactly-exactly-exactly (did I mention exactly?) the words you are going to say. You have plotted points/ideas along your mutual journey with your audience that you can expound upon over the course of your presentation.
Truly professional presentations take practice, but they also take permission. So give yourself permission to be memorable, permission to experiment and permission to enjoy your next presentation.
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