When I think back to the most anticipated, nerve-racking public speaking event of my life, two particular instances come to mind – both in very, very different environments.
The first came this past summer during my internship at General Motors. Our entire summer assignment was broken up into a point system: day-to-day interaction, vice-president one-on-one, group presentation, assignment presentations and, lastly, a personal presentation. For that last task we had to prepare a presentation about ourselves. The room would be filled with 10 employees from various branches of the company, and each would grade you.
At first, I thought, ‘Easy, no problem.’ My main priority was trying to find a creative way to present; there was no way I was using just a plain PowerPoint to go through major facets of my life.
I decided upon a Prezi that took you through a golf course. Each incident that happened on the golf course was an event or quality of my life. I used metaphors frequently, as if I scored a low score on this hole, that means I did something great, like get into college. On the surface, this was a great idea for a presentation – creative, fun, personal.
So what went wrong? I packed WAY too much information into a small timeframe of only ten minutes. I was so nervous. (I never get nervous presenting so why now?!) I had so strategically planned what I would say, that when things went wrong I completely lost my thought. I was like a robot that wasn’t reacting to real time. By being so set to the script, I lost emotion and personality.
The second ‘public speaking’ event of my life was as at my father’s funeral. I wrote down what I wanted the audience and more importantly my Dad to know, practiced a bit, and went up there. Again, I was too focused on the piece of paper in front of me. I was looking down at this piece of paper and losing my place from crying. I finally turned the paper over and just spoke from my heart.
I find that often I become too dependent on what I prepared or the hard copy in front of me. I am very creative and I have a confident persona, but I often forget that I actually know this stuff. Focusing too much on the hard copy takes away my personality from the presentation.
My last weakness, I tend to ramble. When I forget what I’m about to say, I tend to fill the void not with ‘um,’ but with a bunch of words.
From the readings, I took away a few important tips and messages:
-Articulate the opportunity in 40 seconds
-A million things can be told about you before you open your mouth
-Limit talk to one major idea
-If ideas are communicated properly, they could shape a way of thinking forever [That’s pretty cool!]
-Give people a reason to care
-Familiarize your idea with concepts relatable to audience, not just yourself
-Make your idea worth sharing