Presenting with presence and more!

By Bret Freeman, Toastmasters International 

In business we need to give successful presentations and pitches. I’ve learned through hard-won experience that focusing on content alone leads to failure.  Through the process of giving thousands of presentations to three or four people and also to ten thousand I have designed my own methodology. You can use this to make your business presenting successful. I call it: Communicating with P.O.W.E.R.

P: Presence

Presence of mind means developing a mental connection with your audience.  This can be as simple as asking a question that an audience can relate to: “Have you found yourself faced with making a very difficult choice?”   You can create internal pictures for your listeners “As a kid in California, there was nothing like the fourth of July! We had a neighborhood parties and spend the day in our front gardens.  I can still smell the barbeque and see us playing team games … (Do you have an image?)

It’s vitally important to make this audience connection early.  Many presenters get into the detail before developing rapport.   Instead, if we take time to connect, be present in mind, our audience will be ready to hear us.

Preparation for presence of body begins with power posing, and continues as you speak (you can see a demonstration in Amy Cuddy’s TED talks).  Your posture is important.  As the presenter, you have a position of authority.  You can create emotional anchors for your audience.   Stand in one spot to talk about a positive event.  Move to a difference place on stage and talk about a sad event. The next time you go to these spots you can elicit the same feelings.  Be mindful of these finer points of delivery and bring your audience with you.

Presence of voice.  When we speak, our voices can provide a variety of emotional shades to our stories and help get our message across.  You will use a certain inflection and tone talking about another car driver cutting you up.  This will be very different to explaining how to achieve a night of restful sleep . When preparing for a presentation, think how should to use your voice.  My acronym will help:

E. The Evangelist (imagine excited sports commentator)

A. The Architect  (disciplined, unemotional)

R. The Romantic (gentle, tender)

S.  The Stooge (funny, jokey)

O: Own it

Whether you’re giving a wedding speech, a motivational speech or a sales pitch, use your storytelling and make it a conversation.

We need to identify what triggers the behaviours that stop us presenting at our best: This means taking responsibility for our metal state, and owning our nerves.

It’s about owning: your stories, mindset and the relationship with your audience.  All three together will make you a confident and effective speaker.

W: What is your purpose?

Finding our purpose in speaking contributes to making a competent speaker great!  When we find what we are beyond passionate about, we come to life!  What we say will be instantly more engaging.

Defining your purpose starts by asking:

  1. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
  2. If you were independently wealthy, how would you fill your days?
  3. What sort of things do you talk to your closest friends about?

These questions may not reveal your purpose immediately, but they will put you on the right track!

E: Evolve your thinking

Evolved thinking begins when you understand that your audience will be affected by the stories you tell.  Perhaps as important, is that we are affected by the stories we tell ourselves about how we’ll behave and feel in front of the audience.  This “self talk” can drain our confidence and negatively impact our performance.  Lucky we can control our self talk.

We can do this by changing the script we run in our heads.  If our internal programming states: “when I am in front of an audience I get nervous”.  We’ll make that true unless we become the programmers of our own minds.  Allow evolved thinking to let us change the programme.  “In front of a crowd I’m confident and I will make an impact”.  Knowing how to change your programmes will transform your presenting.

R: Re-imagine Yourself

Your re-Imagining bringS together all the elements we’ve talked about so dar.  For athletes re-imagination, or visualization is often key to success.  Our brains have trouble differentiating between actual memories and projected memories. Repeatedly visualizing your success in a situation draws it into your subconscious.  After spending time visualising your success, your actual speech or presentation delivery will have a sense of familiarity because in your mind you have already been there –performing brilliantly!

I hope I’ve given you some new tools.  Transforming your speaking won’t be instant but with practice your confidence will grow.  At your next presentation prepare with P.O.W.E.R. and enjoy your success.


Bret Freeman is an award winning international speaker and member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club:  Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.

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