When I was in school I enjoyed public speaking contests and I even won a few. But somewhere along the way from enthusiastic student to experienced marketer, I lost my love of standing up in front of a crowd – or even a small group. I prefer spreading the word in writing, or even writing speeches for other people to present.
Giving a speech may not be my idea of fun, but it’s a necessary skill to have if you work for a nonprofit. Sooner or later you will need to stand up and share your passion for the cause and tell others how and why they should support it. That's why I've been looking for experts and resources to help improve presentation skills. I've found a few good ones that I'm happy to share.
1. From Introvert to Valued Information Source, with Public Speaking Trainer and Presentation Coach Thomas Moss
At the 2011 MagNet conference I had the pleasure of participating in a session led by Thomas Moss, a fellow member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). Thomas offers a variety of coaching options for people, in the Toronto area, looking to improve their presentation skills.
At the MagNet conference, Thomas had us practise actual presentations and he gave immediate feedback on how to improve them. It was a great experience because Thomas not only shared valuable personalized pointers, but he also created a welcoming and safe environment where participants could "do and learn".
Thomas advised us on posture, hand positions, and projecting our voices. If you are lucky enough to attend one of his sessions, snag one of his free brochures with 10 tips for making powerful presentations.
My favorite piece of advice from his session was to make sure you have information of value to your audience and then just relax and share it. He advised that your audience will forgive most other issues if you focus on providing useful information in a friendly manner.
He also shared encouraging words for introverts. Thomas suggested that many introverts are anxious about public speaking and feel they need to prepare extensively. That strong urge to prepare can be the very thing that helps introverts become good speakers. Knowing your material cold is the key to relaxing and sharing your valuable information. So introverts who feel compelled to practise, practise, practise before their presentation should follow their instincts and their natural style.
Thomas is definitely one of the people I would consider if I needed to arrange coaching on public speaking and presentation style. He generously shares tips and resources at his blog where you can also find contact information.
2. Mark Bowden on Building Trust and Energy with Winning Body Language
Mark Bowden, author of the book Winning Body Language, led another excellent session I attended. Mark's background includes acting training and he offers coaching to politicians and other public figures.
Mark told us how to use our hand gestures and posture to give a sense of confidence and openness as well as to control the energy in the room. He explained the instinctive nature of our unconscious reactions to certain gestures. He shares some great tips in his book, which I was lucky enough to win in the door prize draw. If you are looking for a speaker on presentation skills, Mark is another person I would recommend. You’ll find more information at his website.
The Professional Independent Communicators (PIC) section of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Toronto Chapter hosted the event with Mark Bowden. You can find out about their other professional development events through the IABC Toronto website.
3. Seeing is Believing: A Video Interview with Presentation Skills Expert Tom Mucciolo
As much as I’m enjoying learning by reading, there’s nothing like watching actual examples to help you understand hand gestures. At his PR Blog you can find a video of Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, interviewing presentation skills expert Tom Mucciolo.
Tom gives some advice on hand gestures. It’s similar to what Thomas Moss and Mark Bowden had taught me in their sessions. Tips included keeping hands open and wide enough apart to be inclusive of the audience and holding them at an appropriate height. Tom also went on to include details about how to use your hands to indicate a chain of successive events without confusing your audience about the chronology. That one was new to me.
The great thing about this video is that you’ll get to actually see the gestures as Tom explains them. I hope you'll have the chance to do an in-person session with someone like Thomas Moss or Mark Bowden, but if that's not possible do at least check out this video. It’s not long and it’s well worth a few minutes of time.
Practice Makes Perfect, I hope.
I'm practising everything I've learned from these three great sources. Sometimes I still practise in front of the mirror, although that seems so old school now. Sometimes I use my iPhone to record my early presentation attempts. The resulting videos can can be highly instructive, and good for a giggle too.
Will all this practice make perfect? I guess that depends on your definition of perfect.
I’m happy to be learning to relax, employ and maybe even enjoy one more channel for connecting, learning, and sharing valuable information. That seems like a perfectly fine outcome to me.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a trick or tip for overcoming fear of public speaking? Do you have a favourite website, book or coach who has helped you improve your presentation style? Do you participate in groups like Toastmasters? How do you practice for your presentations?
Please tell us about it in the comments.