You may have a great idea bouncing around in your head. It may be something that could revolutionise the company that you work for, or even change your own career. But if you can't find a way to get that idea out and in front of others, you and it will be forever stuck. The key is to have the ability and the courage to get up in front of a room—full of your friends, your peers or your bosses—and tell them what you know. Once you are able to speak your passion, you can pass it along to others and begin to make a difference. Perhaps you are just plagued by shyness, like I was way back in the seventh grade, when everyone was getting called to the front of the classroom for the spelling bee. Gulp! That was my worst nightmare! But as I grew up, I learned more and more ways to speak effectively. These days, I speak all over the world many times a week. But getting there wasn't easy. Today, I'll share with you some of the ways you can work on your own to become a dynamite presenter. Next week, I'll share some tips on learning great presentation skills at work. Photo by James Hoang.
Strength in numbers: When you are first starting out learning to present, you'll find great feedback by joining a speaking club. It may sound old-fashioned, but a place like Toastmasters or a professional group like the National Speaker's Association can help you hear from the best and get feedback and ideas on how you can be more effective.
Get involved: If you are in a club, you will be around people with common interests. That comfort level with your audience and your topic will put you in the state of comfort you need to be in with all presentations. The sooner we can pretend we are just talking to a bunch of our peers, the better. Years ago, one of my mentors actually suggested that when I present a seminar, I imagine we are all just hangin' out in my living room and I am just telling stories about what I know.
Record yourself: Nothing quite humbles you like seeing yourself on video or hearing yourself recorded. Go ahead and practice your presentation. Only when you have something you are comfortable sharing, bring someone else into the screening. Let them watch you, and press pause every five minutes or so. Resist the temptation to press pause each time you see something good or bad. Instead, go for a predetermined amount of time, and then discuss the feedback that is general about what you both saw. For an audio recording, download it to an iPod so you can listen to yourself on the way to your presentation and work out any kinks you may hear.
Read: What are other presenters in your field reading/recommending? Find out what is hot, and what is not. I ask people for the one book that stands out in their mind as having the greatest impact on their development, learning, and training. If you are presenting on a specific industry, catch up with one of their journals. The thing I like about magazines is they arrive monthly, I read them when I have time, and I only commit to reading at least one (and sometimes only one) article in the whole issue.
Build and maintain a weblog: You get a chance to work on your writing, express you passion and your thoughts. Knowing there is someone (even a friend or family member) interested in what I am writing makes me want to get out there and write some more. It's an exercise in consistency.
Watch a terrible presenter: There are some brilliant people out there who cannot present. To see someone who obviously knows their topic get in front and not hold an audience is more than disappointing, sometimes it is painful. Someone who continues to stand up and look for ways to grow, learn, expand, and evolve—well, I want to watch them. There is bound to be something I will take away.
Set a goal: Start every day with a goal. Do you want to knock everyone's socks off with a great speech? Say it to yourself and think about the steps between your first choices in the morning to the afterglow following a great presentation. Line yourself up for success.
Keep an eye out for the second part of of this series on how to present yourself powerfully next weekend. In the meantime, how did you become a better speaker and presenter? Tell us about it in the comments.