Sage Strategies: Are Your Presentations Powerful?

June 17, 2011 by  
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Sylva Leduc talks about assessments and how to be a better leader

Imagine this:  You’ve been asked to give a presentation.

Congratulations!  This is your chance to shine.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t like being in the spotlight and presenting.

You may even have read somewhere that public speaking is the #1 fear of most people and it’s rated even higher than dying.

If just the thought of public speaking makes you cringe, I have good news. You can deliver confident and powerful presentations!  All it takes is preparation, practice, and a winning mindset.  How do I know?  Because the first time I ever had to present in front of a large group, I literally thought I was going to faint. Through preparation, practice and intentionally placing myself in front of opportunities to  present, I grew to enjoy speaking in front of large groups. And now, it’s one of my favorite ways to connect with people.

If you are an emerging leader being groomed for career advancement, then don’t be surprised if you are asked to make presentations more frequently.

I’d like to give you some simple tips you that can use to conquer your worries. With these tips & tactics, you’ll be ready in no time, feeling confident, and fully prepared to share your knowledge.

First, there are a few things for you to think about:

  1. If you were asked to present, it’s because you can do it—you wouldn’t have been asked otherwise.
  2. Most people don‘t really like presenting.  Some of the best, most well-known speakers and actors have confessed to this.  So, when you look at your audience, know that you’re in good company because they are probably admiring your courage and want you to be successful.
  3. The words that come out of your mouth contribute to only about 10% of what is communicated.  That leaves 90% to non-verbals.  If your body language, expression and gestures communicate confidence, you will come across as confident.

But just how do you create this confidence?

Here’s the secret: being prepared; practicing; and having identified beforehand, instant solutions for de-stressing.

One of our favorite mottos is, “If you think you can, you can.”

Here is how you’re going to prepare, stand confidently in place, and knock their socks off!

Confidence Builder #1:  Know Your Content

Identify your key messages—bullet them in order so they tell a clear story.

Jot down cues for your key messages (e.g. on index card, flashcards, paper, etc.).

Have them ready as back up (but remember to refrain from reading them word-for-word while presenting).

Enhance your messages with supporting tools, and interesting visuals—it will be a perk for your audience, and it takes the spotlight off you.

Be sure to tap into your resources—know a graphic design expert?  Ask for their advice. Oh, and be sure to read the book, “Presentation Zen” so that you make your presentation interesting and not put you audience to sleep with a boring Power Point presentation.

Confidence Builder #2:  Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice delivery of your presentation.  Do this in the mirror.  You might feel funny talking to yourself, but it works.

Or, use a Flip Video, record your presentation and review yourself.

Watch your body language.

Find your “confident look.”

Stand, straight, be sure to use smooth hand gestures, and limit unnecessary movement (e.g. rocking back and forth from one foot to the other).

Practice until the words flow like water.

When you’re ready, practice in front of a friend or two.

Ask them each for 3 things you did well and 1 thing you could improve.

Confidence Builder #3:  Create your “winning scene”

Visualize yourself delivering your presentation.

Then see your audience’s reaction.

What does that “winning scene” look like for you?

Visualize it over and over until you can see it so clearly that you know what color of socks your boss is wearing!

Confidence Builder #4:  Do it!

Identify ways to calm your nerves before you even begin: take deep breaths, or find whatever works for you (e.g. picture everyone smiling and nodding in agreement).

Squelch any negative thoughts or concerns by envision your “winning scene.”

Think positively.  Remember:  “If you think you can, you can.”

As you speak, maintain eye contact with as many people as you can—this conveys confidence and executive presence.  While we don’t want you to stare at anyone for longer than three seconds, we also don’t want your eyes darting around the audience.  You’ll look shifty!

Here’s a quick tip: If it helps, determine a shape in your mind and make eye contact around the room as though you were creating that shape with your line of vision.

Be sure to keep your pace nice and s…l…o…w.

Many of us tend to speedtalk when presenting. I know that I’ve been guilty of this when I didn’t pay attention. What might sound slow to us sounds just right to the listener.

When you are well prepared you will make your points confidently, answer questions clearly, and start to look forward to your next opportunity to be on stage!

Sylva Leduc, MEd, MPEC
The Leadership Strategist
Executive Coach

ps  Any great stories to share about a presentation you made or a one where you were in the audience? What about horror stories of the worst presentation you ever had to sit through?

What is Executive Presence? (Part 1)

March 31, 2011 by  
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Has this ever happened in your company?

Someone is promoted to a leadership position. The person successfully competed against other qualified candidates, some of whom you know are just as experienced and smart. You ask yourself, “Why him?” … or, “Why her?”

Soon, through the rumor mill, you hear that it was a question of “Executive Presence.” As often happens in judging one candidate over another, the decision came down to degrees of executive presence.

So you start doing a little research on the subject. Karl Albrecht, a prolific writer and the author of  more than a dozen books, names executive presence as one of the five pillars of social intelligence:

Presence: Often referred to as “bearing,” presence incorporates a range of verbal and nonverbal patterns (one’s appearance, posture, vocal quality, subtle movements)—a whole collection of signals that others process into an evaluative impression of a person.
Karl Albrecht, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success (Pfeiffer, 2009)

Searching for Executive Presence

An Internet search on executive presence reveals definitions and advice on everything from dressing for success and patterns of speech to more fundamental issues of emotional and social intelligence.

The concept of presence raises serious questions for anyone with ambitions of career advancement. If, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book Blink, decisions are made intuitively, what do we need to know about “executive presence”?

As it turns out, everyone’s definition of the term seems to differ. But planning your career and determining your leadership development needs shouldn’t be left to guesswork.

I don’t know about you, but if executive presence makes a difference in getting the promotion or not getting it, I want to be sure I do everything I can to get more of it. So what is “it?”

Some conclude that executive presence has little to do with polish, poise, sophistication or even use of body language and gestures. In many cases, executives with presence are just as likely to lack these qualities.

In this day and age, executive presence comes in all shapes and sizes, including some you wouldn’t normally recognize. Who would have thought, 30 years ago, that Bill Gates would command it?

Would Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder of Facebook, have stood out as a high-potential CEO? But as one of the youngest men ever to be named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, he certainly has presence—albeit a “Gen Y” version of it.

If you want to be promoted to the VP level, or even to the C-suites, you must learn how to acquire or improve your level of executive presence. And if you’re already in senior management, you must recognize your current potential and help nurture executive presence in the people you want to groom for succession.

But this may be as elusive as charisma. Everyone knows when someone’s got charisma, but it’s not exactly something you can pick up in business school.

I do think you can improve your executive presence by working on your strengths. I see this all the time with clients, the executives and emerging leaders we coach. In highly competitive organizations, where the high-potential candidates are all pretty smart and savvy, there are ways to manage others’ perceptions to your advantage.

It may be hard to improve your presence, but that’s certainly one thing an executive coach can help you do.

In our work with executives we coach several aspects of executive presence. Speech and mannerisms are only the tip of the iceberg. The rest is developing social intelligence.

Later this year I am presenting at a conference where I have been asked to speak about one of my favorite topics.  Can you guess what that topic is? If executive presence came immediately to mind, you’re right!

As I prepare the materials, I’ll also include more information here, so be sure to bookmark this page. And, I’ll also be offering a special conference call in April.  If you are interested in attending this free call, then be sure to register for Mentor Monday.

Sylva Leduc

What do you think about this concept of executive presence? Can it be faked or manufactured or coached? Please leave a comment.