I recently spoke at a business coaching summit and also witnessed several other presenters, speakers, keynotes from many different fields of business. It was a great learning experience in seeing what made for an engaging presentation and ones that fell short.
And while I've been presenting for many years in different capacities, I always feel a bit nervous before I begin. Once I get into my groove, I relax into myself in a different way and feel much more connected to my audience as a result. One difference here is that I decided to take a risk and name this with my audience beforehand and it had the effect of feeling less need to pretend, hide, over-compensate or over-perform. My secret was out, and thus, I felt more relaxed in myself, which is when I'm at my best.
Presenting brings what's in the background to the foreground
In talking with EMyth CBO Jonathan Raymond, he made an interesting point that had me think about presentations in a new way. To paraphrase, he said something like - 'most people think that presenters show up completely different from who they are when they present. My sense is that they actually show up even more as themselves - their strengths and gifts as much as their insecurities and discomfort. Presenting only highlights what's already there, but in spades.' It brings what's in the background into the foreground.
In reflecting on my experiences, this felt true to me, where in the past I often saw a split in people where they either seemed very gregarious on stage, but extremely introverted and shy off-stage; or the opposite with those who were more extroverted and bold in personal conversations, but got very quiet, insecure, or even frozen in front of groups.
Getting more comfortable with discomfort
In fact, I've had several friends and colleagues over the years participate in Toastmasters to get more comfortable with their discomfort. I've seen big changes in people who've been willing to put themselves out there in these unknown waters. My way has been about throwing myself into the fire, practice, get experience, and learn. This is still one of the most exciting edges for me: to be able to hold a room, feel what's going on with all of the participants, stay connected to myself all the while, and have a sense of where to lead next, even if it's off-script.
My favorite moments are when the audience gets involved, asks questions, and co-creates an alive experience for everyone. I continue to experience my own gifts and challenges under the lights and highly recommend any business leader to do the same, as you will no-doubt need to lead your employees, colleagues, investors and clients into the conversation you want to engage them in.
What are some of your greatest challenges and fears around speaking and presenting? Are you too comfortable where you never get nervous, and if so, what does this say about your relationship to the topic and/or your audience? I'd love to hear your challenges and also what you are doing about it to grow bigger.
If you are in the St. Louis or Atlanta areas, see my upcoming Workshops on Business Management and Business Leadership, and let's continue this conversation live!
Friday, November 8 in St. Louis: EMyth Business Management Workshop.
Friday, December 13 in Atlanta: EMyth Business Leadership Workshop.