Practice is the greatest way to improve confidence when presenting.
Let me try saying that again…
You need to practice if you want to greatly improve your confidence when presenting.
One simple tweak and I have gone from perhaps implying the word you to explicitly stating it. And by being explicit, I will create a much bigger impact on my audience.
Notice the word you in the title of this post. Made you click and read, didn’t it? I could have instead written “A tip to make presenters better”, and I reckon some of you would have stopped right there. This is leaving the decision up to you as to whether you think you will benefit from opening this post or not. By making this tip addressed to you, I am to some extent making this decision for you.
So the point I am making is that you can be a better presenter, by simply tweaking your speech to include more of the word ‘you’ through it. A couple of weeks back I wrote a post on 25 Power Words to include in your presentation talks to get the attention of your audience (insert link to post). And the word ‘You’ was the very first word on this list – arguably the most powerful word you could ever use. You is personal. You is persuasive. You is engaging.
I think the power of you comes from the argument that as highly developed species, us humans are ultimately selfish. Now perhaps different people are selfish to a greater or lesser degree, but as humans we are highly adapted to responding to things that we believe are a benefit to us, and ignoring those that we believe are not. I could even argue that when someone gives money away to a charity, they are doing so believing that there is some benefit for them in doing so. This benefit could simply be the priceless feeling of goodwill created through such an act. The word you individualises any message to the person hearing it, giving it the perception of relevancy, importance, and potentially benefit.
Now I am not saying that you should spray the word You in every sentence of your presentation. This could make your audience feel lectured to rather than spoken to. Instead sprinkle You strategically throughout your presentation – in particular:
- At the start of your presentation as part of grabbing the audience’s attention
- At the end of your presentation as part of making a call to action
- Wherever you can create a moments of motivation, inspiration, or reflection on people’s emotions
- Wherever you have positive examples that emphasise the virtues of your subject and core message
The last point is interesting. Your audience wants to relate to the positive. What’s In It For Me? Where’s the good news? Where’s my benefit?
But what about if the message isn’t so positive. There’s a problem. Sales are down. Deadlines are being missed. Redundancies are coming. You, You, You can become deflating, and even worse, may position you as an opponent of the people listening to you. The directness of You is still highly impactful, but to channel the impact in the right way consider cushioning it with some We’s.
- From: The deadline has been missed. Staying back is required. (Audience thinks – not my problem)
- To: You have missed the deadline. You need to stay back. (Audience thinks – I’m being blamed)
- To: We have missed the deadline. I need you to stay back. (Audience thinks – shared problem and I need to help fix it)
Of course other words and delivery techniques will help to deliver the message, but the point is to be strategic with your use of You. One expert even suggests that for every use of the word “I” in your presentation, you should use the word “You” four times.
You can sit and contemplate this for years, or you can give this simple technique a go for your very next presentation and see the difference it makes.
What say you?