Whether it’s pitching a potential new client or introducing yourself at a networking event, how we present information can make more of an impression than the information itself. That’s why I wanted to attend the Speaker's Edge presentation skills workshop. Just like any other skill, being a good presenter takes practice and, no matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement.
More than 30 women attended this three-hour event and participated in group activities and exercises facilitated by Shawn Judge, a former actor turned professional coach who now works with Fortune 500 executives on the art of public speaking.
To start off the event, each person stood at the front of the room for 30 seconds and shared something they were passionate about. Shawn then critiqued each presenter in an honest, yet positive way. Public speaking is difficult for many people, so the positivity in the room was not only reassuring but also crucial in fostering progress.
After everyone had presented, we broke into small groups and were given one hour to prepare a pitch for new business. This exercise was a challenge, to say the least. With limited time, we needed to work together to create a storyline for our pitch, organize our presentation, and work on our individual parts. We were then given five minutes to pitch to the group.
I am not sure how other groups felt, but I’m sure it was similar to the experience in my group. We felt unprepared, unsure and nervous about how everything would come together. But, once it was our turn to stand at the front of the room and pitch, we gave one hell of a presentation. It wasn’t perfect, but it went smoother than expected and we had fun doing it.
At the end of it all, Shawn answered questions, addressed concerns and shared tips on how we can continue to improve our public speaking and presentations skills. Overall, there were four key things I walked away from this event with:
Understand your audience and know your content inside and out. The more you’re prepared for a presentation, the more confident you will be when you walk into the room.
Knowing your content is one thing, knowing how you are going to deliver it is another. Practice what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Be sure to practice speaking out loud and in the position you plan presenting in (standing, sitting, at a podium, etc.).
You don’t have to wait until you have a presentation on the books to practice speaking in front of people. Find a friend, colleague or group that you can practice presenting with on regular basis. Again, presenting is a skill and skills need to be honed, which takes practice.
Above all else, stay positive. If you’re presenting, whatever it may be, you’re doing it for a reason. Because you’re an expert. Because someone asked you to be there. Because they want to hear what you have to say. Own it!
/written by Gabi Winkels