>’Ers’ when presenting are NOT evil

>I’m designing some presentation training that’s actually pretty advanced stuff. I’m looking at things like how to understand the psychology of your audience quickly, spending time to rehearse in front of a highly critical group, how you develop your ideas, what presentation aid you should be using. This is exciting stuff and I’m looking forward to rolling this out.

But, in the midst of this, and in the reading around the subject I have to dispel some myths. What irks me – massively – is the way presentation ‘gurus’ / trainers / experts claim you can deliver a perfect presentation without any hiccups.
STOP RIGHT THERE BOZOS.
Let’s take a step back and re-frame what we’re trying to achieve. Someone is trying to develop their presentation skills because there is a need to deliver messages to a group. There will be varying levels to which the message needs to be delivered, but in essence what we’re trying to achieve is getting the person to be able to deliver that message in a way which means that the audience are receptive to it.
Well I tell you what – I can bet my bottom dollar that’s not where a lot of presentation trainers are starting from. They’re typically starting from – you’re broken, let me fix you. The absolute incredulity of it all. The trainer will often have had no experience of their delegate before, but they can fix them so quickly?
I laugh in the face of this audacity. Presentation training is about getting the presenter to understand their own state of mind, how to accept their foibles, and then how to not let those be an issue. I’ve seen presenters who are very nervous. So much so that they physically shake when presenting. With careful development over a course, and coaching, I’ve been able to help them accept that being nervous is fine, and shaking is fine, they just need to be in a different state of mind and not focus on those nerves.
It’s not easy, and that’s why I’m such a harsh critic when I watch programmes like Apprentice or Dragons’ Den where these people are meant to be at the peak of presenting excellence. But equally I do not allow myself to fall into the same traps. I’m incredibly critical of my own presentation abilities. I actively seek feedback which picks up what I need to do to improve. I do this because I have to be able to understand a full range of emotions and anxieties that come with presenting.
So, don’t fall over yourself, or be critical of others if they say ‘er’ or any host of other behaviours that you may think are negative. First, observe. Not just the presentation but the whole person. Then question to understand what they’re trying to achieve and how they think they’re going about it. Then demonstrate what the behaviour looks like. Get them to practise again bearing in mind the feedback. Be critical and supportive. Ultimately you want to find their motivation for doing well. Once you’ve identified that, you need to build on it.
This really isn’t easy. The psychology and training into helping develop presentation skills is of vital importance. You can’t be fixed of your foibles, nor should you be sold this. You can learn how to deliver a message authentically, and this is what you should be sold.
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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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