Simon was a colleague of mine until Friday. He worked in IT support and was always there to sort me out when my computer refused to play ball, the projector stopped working or I couldn’t print properly. Simon is a genius with IT, and was always my first point of call whenever anything went wrong.
Simon is, however, not perfect. He is a terrible communicator. He mumbles everything he says, he constantly sounds bored, and it is on occasion embarrassing to ask him to repeat something for the fourth time because of being unable to hear the previous three attempts. If I ever needed something, I’d go all the way to his desk on the 5th floor rather than pick up the phone to him, just to make sure I heard his answer! There was a joke going round the office that Simon only got his job because the interviewer was too embarrassed to admit that she couldn’t understand his answers to her questions!
Simon decided to leave London and return home to South Africa, and last Friday was his “leaving do” in a local, noisy, pub. I went along to wish him well, fully expecting to have a one-way conversation with a man unable to compete with a noisy room. I was first there (after him), got some drinks in, and sat down with Simon, dreading the thought of having to hold a conversation in such an environment. We started talking, initially about work, and I nodded where I thought I should while he mumbled some IT jargon techno-babble at me.
After a while, conversation became difficult, so I suggested a new topic… “Tell me about South Africa.” And this was the last sentence I said to the Simon I thought I knew. At this moment, a new Simon emerged. His voice became louder, he became more animated, he smiled and began using hand gestures and facial expressions to liven up his conversation. He leaned back in his seat, yet I could still hear him and follow the conversation clearly. As Simon described South Africa, with its wildlife, its vineyards, it’s long golden beaches, its bars and its people, I became caught up in a picture of somewhere I’ve never visited, and I felt like I’d been there last month.
He continued, comparing South African weather to that of Spain or Italy. He described the landscapes and townscapes to me, and I began to see why he was leaving London to return home – Simon loves South Africa, and was clearly missing it badly.
After about twenty minutes, some other people arrived. They asked Simon about his job as an “IT guy” and how to fix a computer problem, and within a few minutes, he’d gone back to his usual, mumbling “communication” style. He clearly didn’t love his job in the same way as his homeland.
So what can this teach us about delivering a presentation?
It tells us that in order to deliver more compelling, animated presentations, we need to be passionate about the topic. If not, we’re in danger of mumbling or droning our way through. If the topic is something we naturally love then this should come easily. But sometimes this isn’t the case and we need to teach ourselves to love the subject matter. And this isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Here are some tips to change your feelings about your topic to deliver an animated, powerful presentation.
Rehearse out loud
Don’t try to change your feelings until you’re comfortable with the content. Rehearse what you’re going to say out loud and become comfortable with the material. Only then should you work on your presentation style.
As you practice, have some fun with your topic. Throw some jokes in, move your body more, move around the room (although not too much). Purposely exaggerate everything you say and put variation into your voice. It might feel a little false, but this is only a rehearsal, and it will begin to feel more natural as you practice. You know the saying, “smile and the world smiles with you”? It’s true. Deliver as if you’re enjoying yourself, and you soon will be.
If you’re not inspired by the topic, be inspired by the moment
If your topic is really not something about which you can get excited, then focus on enjoying the feeling of leading a room full of people. Whatever you’re there to talk about, enjoy yourself and enjoy standing up and talking to people. Your enthusiasm for the situation will infect the audience with enthusiasm for your presentation content and their experience will be the same.
Visualize your passion
Before you go “on stage”, find somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and imagine something which gets you going. Whether that’s sport, music, acting, singing, walking in the countryside, a favorite hobby… it doesn’t matter. Visualize it very clearly. Listen to sounds, see colors, feel sensations on your skin – temperatures, the breeze. Picture your passion very clearly and notice the feelings you get inside. Then move your mind to your presentation topic and put those same feelings in there.
Picture yourself on the podium delivering the presentation with the same feelings of pleasure, excitement and enthusiasm as you have for your “real love”. See yourself delivering the talk with these feelings in place and realize how animated you’ll sound and how well you’ll be received by your audience. Then open your eyes, get in front of your audience, and deliver the presentation of your life!
What do you do to deliver an animated presentation?