Are you someone who is afraid to speak in front of a group? Do you like to hide behind a podium? Do you use lots of filler words, like “ah” and “um” when you present? I was that person when I first started speaking.

Brenda’s Experience with Presence when Presenting

I vividly recall being petrified at my first presentation at SFU Harbour Centre almost 30 years ago. For many years after that, I hid behind the podium, tried to read my presentation, and used lots of filler words, like “ah” and “um.”

To overcome my insecurities and my overall fear of public speaking, I practiced at my Toastmasters Club and presented numerous times to the securities industry and to investors when I was at the BC Securities Commission. I also took training and did research on how people actually learn and remember.

Why does Presence Matter?

If you don’t know how to overcome fear and manage your nerves, you won’t appear confident and your audience won’t receive and remember your message.

There are many, many tools you can use to overcome fear, manage nerves, and improve your presence. In this blog post, I’ll share three with you:

  • Approaching your presentation as a conversation
  • Holding a High-Power Pose before you present
  • Pausing during your presentation

Using conversations to Improve Your Presence

If you think of your audience as your friends and that you are having a conversation with them, it will be easier to overcome your fear and manage your nerves. If you can have a great conversation with your friends one-on-one, you can also have a great conversation with your audience during a presentation.

Remind yourself that you are sharing what your audience wants and needs to know, and remember that your audience wants you to succeed. What you need to do as the presenter is to get out of your own head, stop worrying about your presentation, and focus on how you are helping your audience.

A Pose Improve Your Presence

Your body posture can affect how stressed you feel or how powerful you feel. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard psychology professor, showed this in a study she did in 2012. To be respected and understood as a presenter, you need to feel confident, powerful, and excited.

To do this, before you speak, find a private space and hold a High-Power Pose. Imagine you are superwoman and make yourself as big as possible (spread your feet wide apart and hold your arms up and out in a V Shape). Hold that position for a minute or two, and you’ll find that you feel pumped and not nearly as nervous. You will feel more confident and less stressed. It works for me so I’m sure it will work for you. As a bonus, you can use this pose to help calm yourself before other potentially stressful situations, like job interviews or performance review meetings.

Using Purposeful Pauses to Improve Your Presence

During your speech, remember to pause. If you are unsure what comes next, pause. If you feel an “ah” or “um” coming on, pause instead. Pausing also slows you down so that your audience can stay with you and not be left behind. As an added benefit, the right pause can add a touch of drama or suspense!

The Impact of Not Having a Confident Presence When You Speak?

If you don’t have a confident presence and you instead look fearful or nervous, your audience will worry about how you are feeling rather than hear and remember your key messages. If they don’t remember your key messages, how can they follow your suggestions? They are also unlikely to become a client or to purchase what you’re offering.

If you would like to learn more tools to manage nerves and enhance your presence, to learn how to structure your presentation to be memorable, and learn how to design a PowerPoint so it doesn’t distract from the presentation, don’t go at it alone. Seek help!

About Brenda

Brenda Benham is a retired lawyer in Vancouver, BC, who worked in private practice and in-house. She has taken training and undertaken research on how to give effective and memorable presentations. Brenda has been a part of a Toastmasters Club for over 15 years. When she helps her clients with their presentations, they say she is easy to work with and provides practical tips to improve anyone’s presentation. Brenda is passionate about sharing what she has learned about how to structure a presentation, use PowerPoint, and manage nerves to have the required presence to give truly Memorable Presentations.

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