Presenting – one of the biggest stress-inducing things of all time!

I have listened to some really interesting speakers in my time. I’ve heard Jeffrey Archer speak – he was fantastic; dry and witty (which was most unexpected to be honest). One of the best speakers I ever heard was Ranulph Fienes, he was so funny that my stomach was hurting from laughing so much.

I’ve also heard some great not-so-famous speakers too. Some fabulous men and women with an interesting story to tell, and an even more interesting way of telling it. I’ve found that there is one thing that separates the interesting speakers from the truly spellbinding and, funnily enough it isn’t what they’re speaking about. It’s what their body is doing while they are speaking.

There is a local woman who really knows her stuff. She has spent a lifetime in one particular field and she is extremely knowledgeable about it. If you talk to her 1:1, she is fascinating and can keep you regaled with tales of the industry for hours. However, put her in front of a crowd and she does not shine. She is apologetic and fidgety. She wraps her legs around themselves and hops about to the extent that what she says is overshadowed by what she’s doing.

How To Improve Your Presentation Skills In One Easy Step

Be aware. Be aware of your body and what you are doing with it. It sounds mad, but the number of new presenters who’s bodies let them down is enormous. From fiddling with hair, to twiddling with a hem; from scratching to pulling a sleeve, fidgets are everywhere.

There are three ‘famous’ things that people do with their bodies and they are famous because they are the most common.

  1. The first is ‘flamingos’. People who flamingo (usually women) do a thing that they would find fantastically difficult at any other time. They stand on one leg and place the ankle of the other leg onto the back of the knee of the straight leg. Then they hold it! I’ve seen women hold this for more than five minutes! They’d make a yoga teacher proud – yet they don’t know that they are doing it.
  2. The second is ‘lions’. This is less of a contortion, but equally distracting for those trying to listen to what you have to say. It involves pacing. Lion speakers choose a path, usually but not always one in front and behind them, and then they pace it like a caged lion. They can walk the same ten step space on the stage, back and forth over and over and over again. It drives an audience crazy for all the wrong reasons.
  3. The third is ‘penguins’. This one is just funny. It is such an odd thing that until you see someone doing it, you can be forgiven for thinking I’m making it up. The penguin presenter flaps their arms. They start with their arms by their sides and then lift them roughly six inches, and then lower them again. Repeatedly.

Why do we do these things? Easy – nerves! Our anxiety gets the better of us and whilst we are concentrating on what to say, our subconscious is busy dancing a samba of nerves, which becomes physical.

What To Remember When You’re Presenting To An Audience

First and foremost, relax. The audience are your friends. They are not there to heckle, or harass you, they are there because they are interested in what you have to say.

Secondly, keep still! Move because it is a conscious decision, not because it is a physical manifestation of your mind-monkeys. A twitchy, fidgety, wandering presenter is hard to look at and even harder to listen to. They are remembered not for what they said, but for the ‘interpretative dance’ display that they put on.

Thirdly, enjoy it. Presenting is a great privilege and an honour. If you plan carefully, relax and keep still you’ll love it and your audience will be spellbound.