If you’ve ever had to give a business presentation to a roomful of watching eyes, chances are you’ve felt the accompanying anxiety, the sweaty palms and awkward speaking pace. Precious few of us are born performers, gifted with the natural ability to communicate perfectly, and so it’s necessary to treat public speech like any other aspect of our working life: we have to view it as a learning experience.
We can do this by breaking down exactly what’s going on when we give a business presentation. There are three main perspectives when breaking down a business presentation – Business, Psychology and Speech Therapy – and learning about each can provide us with the proper tools to become effective and clear communicators.
When looking at a presentation from a business perspective, it’s important to understand your audience. Are you trying to sell a potential client on your company’s business model? Make eye contact to establish trust, decide in advance where to put your hands, and most importantly believe in what you’re saying. A lack of confidence in your speech is something that will become very apparent, so this is one aspect where masking and acting won’t cut the mustard; you have to tell yourself before you even enter the room that you have the utmost faith in what you’re about to say.
When looking at a presentation from a psychology perspective, it’s important to convey authority with both your verbal and non-verbal communicative cues. Are you breaking down a budget to a conference room full of artists? Find the easiest access points and let those guide your presentation into more complicated territory. When faced with new information, your audience will inherently crave structure, so it’s in your best interest to try and think like them, guess what they know and don’t know, and work from the bottom up.
When looking at a presentation from a speech therapy perspective, pay attention to the clarity of your voice, the rate at which you’re speaking, and the volume at which you’re projecting. I know it might feel a little silly, but place your phone on a surface about five feet away, hit record on the microphone app, start talking and then listen back to your voice. Repeat the process as many times as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the pace, clarity and volume of your speech. As with most things in life, this will be a work in progress, so don’t stress out if you fail to nail it the first few times around. If you’d prefer a more direct approach, consider consulting with a speech therapist at a Toronto-area clinic like The Therapy Spot — where a one-time class or series of classes might help you build your confidence.
With those three perspectives in mind, you should be well equipped to face the boardroom with confidence and aplomb. Corporate speaking classes are a good way to further your learning in the company of professionals, but the first step to successfully giving a presentation is to admit that it is a learning experience. No one has ever hopped on a bicycle for the first time and rode it like the wind, and the same goes for giving a business presentation – take time to learn before you hit the open road.