If you’re travelling on business, the chances are that at some stage you’ll attend or give a work presentation.
Simply mentioning the words ‘public speaking’ is enough to give some of us palpitations. Yet, as we are about to learn, preparation, calmness and downtime are all vital to hosting an interesting, engaging meeting.
Indeed, a recent survey by Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts discovered that employees waste nearly 13 working days each year on ‘unproductive meetings’.
So time to get expert tips on presenting, along with ensuring you have the right tools for the job.
Kathy Chalmers, Chief Human Resources Officer for major corporations and someone who has spent a career making and coaching presentations, says your first priority should be the practical aspects of what’s involved.
“If you’re doing a presentation at a hotel or conference, seek out the appropriate people to discuss the logistics,” says Kathy. Liaise with a dedicated Crowne Plaza Meetings Director, for example, to discuss details such as whether you’re using projections linked to a laptop or any other technical devices, and if you have any preferences in terms of the seating – class room arrangement? Theatre? U-shaped?
“It’s important to get a feel for the room. If possible, do a dress rehearsal of your presentation first to help you work out any technical glitches. This will help you relax a bit more, and besides, practice is everything. When you know your stuff, it’s easier to get back on track if you make a mistake.”
Nevertheless, we’ve all sat through presentations that have been stalled by technical glitches. If this happens, what should you do?
“In these moments you have to know how to connect with the audience,” says Kathy. “Whatever you do, don’t come across as stressed because this will make them stressed too. Try to see the humour in it and have an anecdote prepared for such an eventuality. If the technical delay is more serious, ask your audience if they want to discuss some of the things you’ve covered so far in your presentation. The key is to keep them engaged and on your side.”
Dealing with the nerves
So being prepared and making use of the support available at your venue are vital and will help put you at ease. But you’re still bound to be nervous, right?
“A few butterflies are a good thing, providing you with a bit of adrenalin and focus,” says Kathy. “But you don’t want it getting out of hand. When you begin, take longer than you think to say hello and introduce yourself. Don’t rush. Remember to breathe from your belly.
If you do find yourself overwhelmed with nerves, make sure you have a glass of water available and take a sip to collect yourself. One of the things I encourage people to do is to get a sense of balance in their body, to feel their feet on the ground, stand upright and keep their shoulders back.”
Relaxing your mind, and not obsessing with the presentation is also key, alongside practice.
Think about your voice and how you deliver your words. “Record yourself practicing the presentation and listen back to it,” suggests Kathy. “It will reveal if you’re talking too fast or not clearly enough.”
Tell a story
“We are a story-making and story-telling species,” says Kathy, “and whatever the content or context of your presentation, try to inject it with a compelling narrative, with a beginning, middle and end. This will build a sense of empathy among your audience, and if you get it just right you’ll have people hanging on your every word.
“If you’re using visual aids, keep them simple and make sure they’re absolutely necessary and not simply a means to deflect attention from yourself.”
For Kathy, CFOs and number-crunchers are most at risk of losing their audience, especially if that audience is made up of people who don’t share their specialist knowledge.
“I’ve seen so many CFOs lose their audience because they put up slides full of numbers or simply reeled off financials. You need to find ways to get technical information across in a digestible way. Remember, you can always provide a document to go with your presentation with a more detailed breakdown of the things you’re discussing.”
Don’t forget the upside
With public speaking, we spend so much time worrying about getting it wrong, we forget about the potential upsides of getting it right. “If you can produce a presentation that’s clear, informed and compelling, you’re going to make a huge impression on your audience,” says Kathy, “and if your bosses or clients are in that audience, the advantages are obvious. See it not as something to be endured but as an opportunity to make your mark, to show off your best qualities.”
Crowne Plaza offers a host of Flexible Meetings solutions designed to ensure the success, comfort and productivity of even the smallest of meetings whether it’s formal or informal meetings. A Crowne Plaza Meetings Director is on hand to support guests with any meeting needs, including tech support.
To find out more about how Crowne Plaza is changing the face of modern business travel, or to book a room, visit crowneplaza.com/businessmostly.