Presentation Mastery

What it takes to make it as a speaker – or not

Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:Be yourself. When I first started speaking, an “esteemed” colleague told me that I’d “never make it in this business with that NY accent.” The pathetic part is that I thought he knew better than I did. I trusted his judgment better than I trusted my own. For weeks, I tried sounding like someone else. My audiences hated me. I hated me. I dropped the ruse and decided all I could be was me. And that turned out to be exactly what connected with my audiences.

Be your best self. You have annoying mannerisms. Get rid of them. I was lucky to be videotaped in a college class as part of my curriculum to be an English teacher. My required presentation was 3 minutes long. I thought I did great. I thought I flowed. I thought I was downright eloquent. In fact, had you asked me what I was going to do about my annoying habit, I innocently would have asked what annoying habit? Until I watched the videotape. OMG. Forty-three times in 3 minutes I used the word, okay. I used it to replace periods, commas, to segueway to my next point, to fill in space. I used it for everything! But, please pay attention here: I didn’t know I did this. Clueless.

Now before you think I was just stupid, please video tape yourself. I’m not stupid but I was blind.

Ask someone you love and/or respect what your most annoying speech habit is. They’ll be relieved you asked. Maybe you say “you know” about a million times in each sentence, maybe your voice goes up at the end of every sentence making it sound more like a question than a statement, maybe you ramble or mumble or talk about yourself so much that if you use the word me one more time, it will sound like an opera (me, me, me, me!). Do you play with your hair, or your glasses, or scratch your elbow? In one workshop with bank execs, I had one guy who repeatedly and roughly tugged on his belt buckle. I was sure he was going to injure himself permanently. (You should have seen his face when he and I watched his video! Made me and okay look like a piece of pie.)

Everyone has something. Maybe it’s just distracting. But if you haven’t asked someone for the truth, or watched a video so you can see for yourself, you may have something worse than distracting; it could be something annoying, cloying, revolting. Bring your best self to your platform.

What lessons have you learned along the way?

Leave a Reply