I hate presentations. As much as I want to be a dynamic, exciting speaker that leaves the audience enraptured with their story and on the edge of their seat, my execution tends to fall somewhere below these expectations. The type of speaker I yearn to become is more than just an interesting person or good great storyteller, these speakers are masters of capturing people’s hearts and minds. They understand what makes people tick, and they weave this into their commentary so that the audience and the speaker are one in the same.
In January 2016, I decided to challenge myself to become a dynamic, engaging presenter. Inspired by Susan Cain’s TED Talk, “The Power of Introverts”, I coined my journey the “Year of Speaking Boldly” and sought opportunities to speak or present. I also started to research tips and methods to improve my content, hoping there was a formula or approach I that would make this process easier. What I’ve learned over the past four-and-a-half months is that there are two sides to presenting: the mechanics of how and what you say, and the methods you use to engage your audience. The mechanics are easier because they focus on clear-cut frameworks. Mechanics help to make your story better through a logical outline and flow. Engagement methods are nuanced; they combine advance planning with ad hoc stories and comments that help you engage your audience. They are the comments or actions that great presenters incorporate, oftentimes spontaneously, because it resonates with their audience. Personally, engagement methods make me nervous because of the failure factor; you tell a joke and no one laughs or you use an example to demonstrate a point and it falls flat. If that happens and I lose my energy and confidence, I will struggle to finish the remainder of the presentation because I'm distracted by what went "wrong" rather than focusing on the present. This makes the mechanical approach feel “safe”; I might be boring, but at least I won’t be embarrassed because I tried something new and it flopped.
As part of this series, I will share my experiences (good and bad), as well as what I've learned on my "speaking boldly" journey. Also, I would love to challenge my readers to find a bold challenge to pursue, whether it has to do with speaking, trying something new at work, or dealing with conflict. It is natural to want to stay in your comfort zone, but a life without challenge is a life without growth. Cheers to continued growth through challenges!