In my last post I wrote about conversational presenting. Conversational presenting builds on the skills most of us already have and use in normal day-to-day conversations. But for many of us, conversational presenting is hard. That used to be the case for me. I was in Toastmasters for many years and developed a formal style of public speaking. I planned my vocal variety, my body language and my rhetorical flourishes. And it wasn’t really me. Nor was I connecting with my audience – they were a backdrop for my performance.
With the help of a great coach, I learnt about being myself in front of the audience and seeing and engaging with individuals in the audience. That’s conversational presenting.
However, it took time and effort to change my style. Every time I got up to speak it was a trigger to go into my “public speaking mode”. It was a hard habit to break.
Every so often, we have experienced presenters on our courses who also go into “public speaking mode” as soon as they get up. They morph into somebody else and start speechifying. Often they have a background in Toastmasters or debating.
If you can recognise yourself in these descriptions, you can break this habit.
- Rehearse your presentation sitting down. It’s much harder to speechify when you’re sitting down. Sitting won’t trigger your public speaking mode. Sitting in your seat will have you talking to the individual people in your audience, as if you were having a conversation.
- Once you’ve got the feel of the way that you were presenting when you were sitting down, stand up, but stay presenting in the same style. To make it easier to stay in the conversational style, make this transition half-way through the presentation. If you feel yourself starting to speechify again, sit down again and get back into conversational style and then try again.
- When you’re presenting for real, speak as if you were in your seat.
When you first start doing this you may feel that you are being too low-key and relaxed in your style. It’s normal to feel like this because you’re making a big break from your old style. Ask for feedback from several trusted friends about whether your new style is appropriate.