The introvert’s guide to clear and effective public speaking
The presentation of the findings comes at the end of the analysis. How you present your findings is just as important as the findings themselves. My boss has over 30 years of experience in the Access To Information field; he could jump out of bed and deliver a powerful 20-minute presentation with just five minutes of prep time and three bullet points. As admirable as that is, not everyone is built that way: Consider this:
Gifted speakers are born, but influential speakers are made.
Excellent speaking skills are a must-have.
Speaking is the new competitive advantage; you will lose opportunities if you cannot effectively present yourself. Effective communication gets you a job offer, a promotion, and a raise in salary. It’s a leadership skill that we can’t afford to be without. No one can present your findings as an analyst better than you, the one who conducted the analysis.
Start with your best foot.
Always begin with the point and then explain why. But even before you get there, as an analyst (an introvert at that), you want to know who is in front of you, what they care about, and how they prefer to receive information so you can tailor your message to their preferences.
Less is more. If they want more information, they will ask for it. The goal is not to say everything you know but to say just enough.
Give the audience only what they need to know rather than everything you know. This is where doing your research on the audience comes in handy. The speaker in the LinkedIn podcast “How to be Excellent at Your Job” makes a compelling statement: “Most people make the mistake of being speaker-centred rather than listener-centred.” They begin with what is important to them as speakers rather than essential to the audience. The audience is only concerned with their self-interest, so start with their importance.
So, if you’re speaking with the manager and need an extra person to assist you, don’t begin by saying, “I’m overworked and need someone to assist me.” We’ve all fallen into this particular predicament before. Instead, start by saying, “I have a way to be more productive in this department.” That’s the bait. When you start with that, you’ve got the manager’s attention. Then, because managers are concerned with productivity, you can direct them to how you arrived at that conclusion, the problem, and your proposed solution.
Know yourself, know your audience, know your message.
Identify the need or challenge.
A person has no reason to buy whatever you’re selling unless and until they recognize a need or a challenge. As a result, you must precisely visualize the current market or challenge. They’ll be more open to hearing your solution after that. Then concentrate on the advantages that are for them rather than yours.
“Here’s what we’ll get: “Our customers will be happier,” and “we’ll cut the production time.” Emphasize the advantages they have. That is what managers are concerned with. Give people a high-level overview of the plan before delving into the details in the middle. The temptation for an analyst is, to begin with, the details. That is a sure way to lose your audience’s attention.
Consider the sandwich: the top and bottom are frequently the same. In the same way that the meat is always in the middle, keep the meat in the middle when making a presentation. Save your details for the body rather than the beginning.
Calm your nerves.
It is normal to feel nervous from time to time. According to scientists, it is adrenaline preparing you for fight or flight. But here’s the thing: it’s not about you. It is all about the audience.
Shift your attention away from yourself and toward the audience. So often, nervousness stems from your imagination of everything that could go wrong.
The keyword here is “could.” You live in the future, and you must concentrate on the present. Short breathing exercises have been shown to improve focus right before a presentation. However, it is essential to note that no amount of breathing exercise can save you from ill-preparedness. You must plan ahead of time and properly prepare for your presentation.
The audience is on your side.
Look for the affirmative nodes, or friendly faces, in the audience. Concentrate on those. If you see someone typing on their phones or laptops, remind yourself that anything could be. If something does go wrong, you have the option of learning from it. Don’t criticize yourself for it. You’ve known something new for the next time.
Body Language, Tone, and Words
These three must be harmonious and coordinated. How do you present yourself visually? What are you wearing? What is the tone of your language? Most importantly, make sure your body, style, and words are all in sync. This means that your body language, tone, and comments should all convey a consistent message. When one of these three is out of sync, the body language takes over. Working on these three areas fosters trust and confidence.
Try recording yourself on video and playing it back. This quite often benefits you by allowing you to see yourself through the eyes of your audience.
It would help to always keep your hands above your waist in body language. Arms below the waist convey a lack of confidence, or you may very well be carrying a weapon that poses a threat to humans.
Gestures are critical if you intend to use them. You do not want to appear to be in constant motion, however.
Voice comes in second place to body language. Your voice must be projected. Match your tone to the audience. The pace at which you speak, how fast you say, and your speaking volume are all critical. You want to be in sync with the audience.
Mind your language. I’m not referring to the popular 1980s television show, but rather to the words you chose. Avoid the use of words like “hopefully.” While this is situational, the bottom line is to avoid using words that make you appear unconfident.
Plan ahead of time.
Get to the presentation venue, perhaps one hour early, and ensure the equipment is good (if that is in your power). Practice at the venue. There is so much that goes into a presentation, so you want to consider everything.
Murphy’s law could affect the content of your presentation, so do not take chances.
Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Try to plan for your worst fears. The worst thing is to freeze up and not know what to do.
Handling difficult questions
It’s okay not to know everything, so don’t appear like you do, lest you answer something wrong and there is an industry expert in the audience, and you lose all credibility.
You could deflect that say, am not an expert on that, but let me forward this to James because he is an expert on that.
Conclusion: Effective public speaking is all about knowing your audience, delivering just enough to pique their interest, and practising ahead of time.