Tim, how did you conquer your fear of public speaking?
Public speaking has been regularly quoted as being a fate worse than death! It’s an integral part of your public profile. Your presentation style may make or break your professional status.
Hundreds of speakers present throughout the globe every day but how many produce riveting visual and oratory accolades? The answer? The ones who take time to nurture their self-esteem, their public persona. Those who face their fears – head on. Those that work at it, practising over and over again. Very few exemplary speakers are naturals. Most have had to conquer many fears. It’s not easy but, once conquered, the confidence in achievement gives you the freedom to just get better and better, step by step.
“In the chair” is social media connoisseur, Tim Hughes.
I first met Tim when I ventured into the world of Twitter. I watched and read his posts and began to learn how to progress my Twitter timeline.
Tim is Co-founder and Managing Director at Digital Leadership Associates www.social-experts.net The company helps people embrace social media, from the board, through sales and marketing, so HR, supply chain etc. Previously Tim was involved in a sales transformation at Oracle where he helped 2,000 sales people completely change the way they worked due to a change in buyer process and competitive pressure. Tim has been the number one most influential social seller for two years now (according to Onalytica).
Can you remember your first-ever public speaking engagement?
“I was lucky to join a graduate program at ICL (International Computers Ltd), now Fujitsu, where I was taught how to present. As always with training programmes, you did a ten minute presentation, which was pants!
You were then taught the theory of how to present. This involved a presentation structure, agenda (tell them what you are going to tell them) the main part of the presentation (tell them) and then the conclusion (tell them what you have told them)!”
How did you feel?
“Was highly nervous. Presenting in front of customers is one thing but presenting in front of your colleagues is probably more nerve-racking! Luckily, we had been briefed beforehand on how to give constructive feedback to each other. This is critical so people don’t just say, “That was rubbish.” They might say, “I liked that bit but maybe this could be better.”
One of my colleagues had completed a business degree, had done presentations before and knew he had to be in tune with his audience. 55% of that graduate intake was female so his presentation was entitled, “Why wine is better than men.” Excellent presentation, which the audience loved!”
How did you plan for it?
“In those days I turned to my network and wrote the whole thing out on sheets of A4 word for word and guessed at the structure. The course at ICL changed all that. If you can get training on presentation techniques, I would highly recommend it.
At the end of the day, it is what you feel comfortable with. For example, I went to a presentation course where I was told, always start a presentation with a joke. As I have a dry sense of humour, I did that a couple of times and fell flat on my face!
Once I did a presentation course where we were all given coat hangers as we arrived. We were told to bang them on the desk every time somebody said, “um.” Makes you realise how much you can use filler words.”
How have you perfected your public speaking skills to their present evolvement?
” It was on the ICL course that I was given a structure that I have pretty much stuck to, until I worked for Capgemini where I mingled with a bunch of MBAs. They taught me some great techniques. For example, the power of storytelling. Storytelling is a technique I help sales people with as part of my social selling programme. Presenting isn’t just about giving information. It must engage the audience and create some action.
I would always advise people to do a dry run. The more times you dry run it, the more you will slow down and learn to breathe. If you just stand in front of an audience and blurt it out, you lose engagement. And, as you breathe and leave pauses between what you say, those gaps allow the audience to absorb what you say.”
What’s the biggest fear you’ve had to conquer? How did you conquer it?
“When I first started speaking, I assumed I would forget the words so I would write them all down. Then I moved to prompt cards. Now I understand that, if you are passionate enough, you should be able to speak without the need for prompters. Ask yourself the questions: “What are the three key points I want to get over?” and “What one action do I want the audience to action from my presentation?” Write it down and put it on a card in front of you.
I now often present without PowerPoint and sketch out the story on an A3 sheet as preparation and chalk up the story on a whiteboard as I go. I once attended a conference and watched a senior person read the PowerPoint slides. The audience felt their intelligence was being insulted. PowerPoint is fine but don’t use it as a crutch.”
The world is a stage – it is up to us to own that stage. Anyone can do it. It just takes a change in mindset and a thirst to perfect, again and again.