I remember when I first started speaking and was asked to make a presentation to a group of vice presidents to explain my training proposal to them. At the time, I was too unsophisticated to even know how many errors I committed: not only was I dressed too casually (no stockings and open-toed shoes!), I actually walked in with a hand lettered flip chart (yes, it was back in the day, but still).
They hired me, and after several months passed, I asked the HR director why they did. Laughing, she said, “What you lacked in professionalism which was everything (yes, that is a quote!), you made up for in enthusiasm. We weren’t sure if you’d get it right, but we knew if you did, we’d be delighted and we are.” My sincerity and honest enthusiasm apparently made up for a (total, in retrospect) lack of polish.
It’s been years since that first presentation yet I was recently reminded of the importance of less slick and more sincere. I was asked to make a presentation to an executive committee regarding, lo and behold, the same topic of years ago: my training proposal and their need to move to a phase two. Lots of folks were invested in this presentation and when I asked, they offered their thoughts, guidance and wisdom on how they thought I could win over the EXCOM. I worked hard and long on the presentation trying to incorporate everyone’s ideas. I was miserable and realized I was trying to be too polished, and trying to be someone I wasn’t.
The night before the presentation, in a hotel room and in a panic, I started over. This time I focused on how much I sincerely cared about their success and how great their story is. It wasn’t about being “professional,” it was about being real.
Here are 3 things I learned:
Let them see you sweat. Not because you’re nervous or unprepared but because they know you care, deeply profoundly care about their success. Passion rules.
Be a storyteller. Help them feel what you have to say; create an emotional experience. Facts and figures are important to justify the emotion.
You are good enough. Trust yourself and bring your own self – your true self – to your platform. If someone (even with the best of intentions) advises that you do something that isn’t you, don’t do it. One person guiding me was extremely analytical. His advice to me – for himself – was spot on. For me, it was inauthentic. Once you determine your strengths, use them to authentically engage others.
Hope this helps!