To present is to appear before an audience in order to share a message that provokes a change in how they think, feel or are prepared to behave afterwards. If that weren’t daunting enough, it’s worth bearing in mind that no audience ever sat down hoping to see a mediocre performance and no presenter ever woke up energised by the prospect of delivering one. The success of organisations like TED and the wealth of online content have raised audiences’ expectations about how effective and engaging presentations should be. At the same time this has inadvertently created an apparent formula for delivering them, and those of us who measure ourselves against this will almost certainly find ourselves wanting.
The problem with public speaking is that it is seen as a skill that few have, rather than a series of behaviours that all can choose to develop. It is speaking in public with care as opposed to speaking in private without, and the two stages that must be accomplished are identifying which behaviours help and then repeating them as often as is needed to forge them into new habits.
Whilst our presentation skills workshops, such as In the Wings or Potential Energy, can raise your level of awareness in a group setting and offer exercises, processes and ideas that will help, there is no substitute for kinaesthetic learning. This is where a Kinetic Energy one to one coaching session can help.
During a coaching session that will usually last three hours, you will first examine and analyse your own performance using video feedback to better understand your communication habits. This is then set against an exploration of your preferences and the needs of your topic and audience in order to clarify your presentation style. Finally, a sensitive but frank appraisal of your personality will be offered, so that you can make informed decisions about how you want to present. All that will then stand between you and the ability to deliver an outstanding presentation is a personalised programme of preparation, revision, rehearsal and study. Experience suggests that this final stage is the one that is most commonly omitted, which results in the seemingly ubiquitous problem that the vast majority of presentations are dull and boring.
The truth is that all presenters find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place; the rock being the unavoidable truth that an audience requires us to at least match if not exceed their expectations, and the hard place being Abraham Maslow’s assertion that our need for personal safety must be satisfied before we can concentrate on realising our potential. That space can often feel like a vice-like grip, and to not just survive but thrive in it is to Dance in the Line of Fire.