How I Became a Good Storyteller
If you’re like me, there is probably a plethora of things you’d rather do than get up in front of a room full of people and speak. No, I’m not talking about a dramatic plethora; I would not prefer to go swimming with sharks, or stick a metal fork in an electrical socket. But I’d certainly rather spend an afternoon doing timesheets than stand up and present – no matter what the topic, or who is in the crowd. Last week I got some sense slapped into me.
I was fortunate enough to spend a day at a workshop called “Stand and Deliver” with 7 of my coworkers. It was a full day of learning, talking, presenting, presenting, and presenting some more. It was exhausting and eye-opening. We laughed, we cried, we hugged it out at the end of the day (for real.) Here’s what I learned:
1. Wringing your hands
Saying ummmmm and playing with your rings does not convey confidence or authority…
WHO KNEW?! But seriously. Did you know that only 7% of how a person receives your message is based on content? That means that 93% of how you communicate a message is based on tone of voice and body language. It was fascinating to see that everyone – even the most confident and seasoned presenters in our group – had a “thing.” A nervous twitch. A strange intonation in their voice. A funny thing they do with their left arm. Something that says “pay attention to this weird thing I’m doing, and not to the incredibly interesting thing I’m saying.” What was more fascinating was how easily some people (myself included) could turn those twitches right off. The mind is a powerful thing. Never underestimate your own will power, and the control you have over your own nerves.
2. Be authentic:
Being ON doesn’t mean being something you’re not.
We all know we have to bring our A-Game anytime we present something; whether it is to our clients, our boss, or our colleagues. But ON doesn’t have to mean high-octane, off-the-wall excited, or loud. It just means be the best and most confident version of yourself you can be. I’m not a naturally loud or high-energy person, and I used to spend so much time and energy before a presentation psyching myself up that I’d be exhausted before I even started. ON means embracing your nerves and turning them into positive energy. ON means believing in what you’re saying, speaking the truth, speaking clearly, taking pauses. ON means finding that thing that’s special about you and bringing it every time you get up to speak. In my case, speaking publicly about food makes me light right up, so I will henceforth only be presenting food-related ideas and reports. Just kidding….. I think.
3.It’s a process:
Spending this day deconstructing my presentation skills and reconstructing them isn’t the end of the story. I’m not magically transformed. But I’ve started. Standing up there and living some of the ‘worst case scenarios’ that I’ve envisioned time and time again (which, by the way, are not so bad when they actually happen) was empowering. Standing up and being vulnerable in front of people that you work with day in and day out, and in front of people that you report to, was pretty liberating; and it created accountability in all of us. I’ll hold others accountable to what they learned and encourage them to keep practising it. And I’ll expect them to do the same for me. Whether it’s a snap of the fingers every time I say “ummm…” or reminding me to clench when I start to wiggle around nervously (seriously – try it), I think that day by day it’ll get a little easier, a little more natural and a lot more effective.
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Stephen Brown has been in the marketing industry for years now. As a seasoned marketing veteran, he's learned a few things. Particularly, what he likes and what he doesn't like. Here's some insight on what grinds his gears.