Presentations – booo hisssss

I mentioned in a couple of post ago, my fear of public speaking and my hatred of public speaking. I also expressed that the way I had resolved to handle and improve such a necessary skill, was by doing it as much as possible. Consequently, in my current employment of organising and delivering events on behalf of Gateshead Council, I put myself on stage all the time. Moreover, at University, I try to do it as much as possible. Afterall, it is not just about the success of the business idea, it is also about the ability to present it and communicate/pitch successfully what exactly it is. When it comes to investing, this is as much regarding the idea itself as the person standing infront of the board of investors.

I’ve always been aware this is a weakness in my skill set and I’ve often felt it was something which is of detriment to any team I work with. I’m not the strongest presenter but I am often the best at the question and answer session. Usually because I’ve thought about everything so pragmatically and deeply, I’ve already thought of answers to questions others run away from. More over, when difficult questions are directed at me, I thrive thinking on my feet and feed off the interaction. Where as endlessly speaking about something in a specifically thought out order, terrifies me. Consequently, I’m much better at presentations, if I can resist the ability to have notes in front of me and at work, I often present off the cuff.

But within a business environment, one that relies on know all your facts and figures and conveying information in an effecient amount of time, structure is key.

Whilst practicing and engaging in a lot of presentations and even enterring business plan competitions has seen my confidence sore in this area. I no longer feel almost paralysed. Instead, I feel able to do it and stand on stage as a work in progress. I’m by no means perfect. I struggle a lot. But I always feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards.

I attended a presentation skills session run within my University. This of course was useful. It highlighted a lot of the things I know I need to work on. Over reliance on notes, avoiding eye contact and often overwhelming hand movements. One thing that is often commented is that when I present, I can come across as rigid and my personality doesn’t come through as much as it could. However, when i engage in the question and answers, there is a noticeable change and I relax. I feel comfortable and confident in what I’m saying, where as in the presentation, I feel awkward and difficult.

So what lessons did I take away from the session. Well, I have a tendency to over prepare and I become too focused on remembering the structure, instead of just having confidence in what I’m saying. I also was given the feedback, that if I like to move about and can’t help but have gestures, then I need to make them work for me and within the presentation. Instead of just randomly anywhere. Interestingly, it was commented that if I speak in the middle of the stage, with just a microphone in my hand, my body language is VERY different and awkward. Whereas if I am speaking behind a lecture stand or some sort of barrier, I am noticeably more confident. One could relate that to the barrier and feeling more exposed without it.

The session was a very positive experience. I managed to take stock of how far I have come since years ago, when i wouldn’t do any form of presenting. To now, where I readily do it and I’m improving. The session also gave me the opportunity to consider why I rely on my notes (to avoid eye contact) and why I prefer a barrier infront of me (lack of self confidence). The session also made me remember, that I need to remove the mind set of “I’m not very good at public speaking”, as there as elements I’m very good at and other areas I’m improving on.

Hopefully, it will be a while until I have to pitch my business idea, but I’m considering whether I may enter a larger business competition for my own personal development and to gain feedback on my pitching style.

Afterall the only way to improve, is to put yourself out there for exposure.


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