Photo: Douglas Robertson
Regardless of whether you worry like crazy when asked to do a presentation or see it as a great opportunity to share your knowledge or passion, you will probably have a certain way of preparing what you’re going to say.
And whilst what you say is fundamental, how you say it is equally, if not more important. In order to bring your words to life and ensure they have the most impact, you need to prime the elements that communicate the words – your body, your voice and your mind.
Recently I ran a warm up session for Pitch@Palace On Tour which was designed to prepare 24 companies who were pitching for a place to participate in a bootcamp in London in October and attend Pitch@Palace 4.0 at St James’s Palace on 2 November. The aim of the session was for all of the pitchers and invited audience to have some fun (laughter is a great way to help people relax) and learn some tips on how to enhance their pitch delivery.
So, drawing on my background as a performer, here are some of the tips I shared during the session about how to prepare your body, voice and mind for a successful pitch:
Our bodies communicate a large part of our message; however, you may have noticed that when some people present they seem disconnected from their body, they simply become a talking head. If we use our bodies effectively we can enhance the way we communicate by helping our audience to take in our message through their eyes as well as their ears.
Preparing your body with a short warm up before you speak can help you to be fully present and able to smoothly incorporate movements and gestures. As we tend to carry a lot of tension, simple stretches, shoulder rolls, arm swings and shaking your arms and legs can be very helpful in easing some of the tension and getting the blood circulating which will energise your performance. Deep slow breathing will help oxygenate your body and ensure you are calm and centred.
Our voice carries our carefully crafted words and is therefore a fundamental part of our communication. Whether we like it or not, people make judgements about us based on our voice such as where we’re from, how well educated we are and how confident we are. When we’re nervous, we tense up and tend to speak in a higher pitch which sounds less authoritative. We might also speak more quickly, forgetting to pause to allow our audience to hear and process what we are saying. We can sometimes get tongue tied, tripping over our words or we might mumble or speak in a monotone, once again impacting negatively on the message we want to share.
But a few simple voice exercises can help your voice to be richer, freer and more expressive. Start by making some weird faces to wake up your mouth and jaw – by this I mean open your mouth wide and then close it tightly, make a chewing motion as if you are chewing a huge piece of gum, blow up your cheeks with air, mouth the word ‘WOW’, poke your tongue out and then move it around the inside of your mouth. Follow this with some gentle humming or singing and add some tongue twisters to get your articulators working effectively for clear diction.
The attitude we bring to a presentation and the state of mind we choose will determine how well our talk is received. If you think about how nervous you are and about everything that will go wrong, then you can pretty much expect you will be nervous and things with go wrong! On the flip side, if you perceive the audience as your friends (most people want you to do well) and focus on delivering value to them (rather than focusing on yourself), you will have a more successful presentation.
Apart from being well prepared and practiced, techniques such as visualising your successful presentation and becoming aware of your self-talk ensuring you are giving yourself positive affirmations can be very helpful in preparing your mind. In addition, rather than thinking about addressing an entire audience, think of your presentation as a series of one to one conversations that you have with individual audience members. Just before your presentation, spend a moment being quiet and still, breathe deeply and focus on serving your audience in the best way you can.
Spending time preparing your body, voice and mind before a pitch or presentation will ensure you are in peak condition to support your words with an engaging and impactful delivery.
What do you think? Do you have any rituals or specific methods of preparing for your presentation delivery? If so, I’d love to hear them; please do share in the comments section.
Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.
Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential