May 2017 Making Your Presentations Matter

Be a Present Presenter

One of the biggest issues presenters struggle with is that they are “in their own head” too much. They have internal dialogue about how the presentation is going, and the dialogue is usually critical. In other words, they aren’t even attending their own presentation! They’re mentally absent. If someone were to call roll, everyone else would answer, “Present” but not them!

The most effective presenters are present at their own presentation. They are focused on delivering their message. They’re mindful of connecting with their audience. They’re attuned to what the audience needs and wants.

How can you be a “Present Presenter?”

  • Know your information well enough that you can speak in your normal conversational manner (avoid scripts as they sound artificially formal). For most of us, that means physical rehearsal, not just reading through notes and slides.
  • Focus on your breath. Several years ago, I started practicing yoga. My practice markedly improved when I focused on slowing and controlling my breath, especially when I was in an uncomfortable position. For many speakers, “uncomfortable position” is a good metaphor.
  • Engage your audience’s eyes one pair at a time. Avoid the temptation to make eye contact with the entire audience all at once. Have a series of very brief conversations with each person present. This will actually calm your brain by not bombarding it with extra stimuli that accompanies fast eye movement.
  • Listen intently to questions. Many speakers interrupt audiences’ questions in an attempt to get to the answer quickly, or they break eye contact while the question is being asked. Show the questioner that you are present with him/her. Pause after the question is done before answering; this shows you were listening with intention.

Sound like common sense? Absolutely! Is it common practice? Absolutely not! Make it your practice.