How much do you present in your job? In most professional jobs, you probably ‘present’ in one form or another fairly regularly. That might be in the form of updating your boss, making a case in a meeting or explaining a project plan. Ultimately, they are all forms of presenting information to others, to produce an outcome.

So why then are people filled with fear when presenting to a room comes up? I come across many people who despite being outgoing, happy to speak up in meetings and go to networking events, avoid ‘presenting’ like the plague. Really it’s the same thing but usually on a bigger scale, with a greater formality to what you are doing. However, what you are actually doing is much the same – presenting information to inform your audience and get them engaged to affect an outcome!

So today I’d like to look at the benefits of taking up presenting opportunities in your career and some things to think about, to hopefully decrease the fear!

Why present

In many jobs, it is possible to avoid presenting very frequently but there are distinct benefits to accepting them and even seeking them out:

·       It helps you build your internal profile – giving an internal seminar on a subject or client your team has recently been working on, to inform others in your company is a great way to increase your internal profile and get you noticed by more senior people. Then, when your line manager suggests you for promotion, he/she has more justification and doesn’t have to work so hard to ‘sell’ you to the senior decision makers. Hopefully the senior team have encountered you too, if you’ve presented.

·        It improves your perception with clients and customers – it’s difficult to be seen as a key person with clients unless you are taking a leading role, at least some of the time with presenting information to clients and customers. Whilst talking round a table can often be good enough, stepping up and standing up to present and engage them in a different way can be very beneficial.

·       It opens up external role and business development opportunities. Plenty of people are ‘spotted’ for new roles or win new client work when speaking at conferences and other external events. I know someone who now has a large client as a result of conference speaking – that client is a mainstay of their business.

·       It takes away your feeling of fear – we all have things we don’t like to do. However, my lack of desire to ever hold a tarantula at London Zoo is not going to impact my professional life. Just having something in your mind that you dread doing professionally and spending time trying to avoid being asked and having to decline can be a psychological barrier to achieving all you can at work. It might even limit which roles you apply for or hold yourself back from! Think of the increased possibilities if you are open to presenting, even if just now and then.

How to start thinking about it

My reasons above might help you to face up to the reality that being able to present without dread would be beneficial to your career but they probably won’t just get you to start volunteering tomorrow and they certainly won’t remove your fear. Here is some food for thought to warm you up to the idea:

·       An audience does not want you to fail! Think how embarrassed you feel if something goes wrong for someone presenting, as humans, we empathise and feel for others.

·       The role of a presenter is to inform others, that is, provide them with new information that is valuable to them. You are helping them!

·       The role of the presenter is also to engage the audience so actually it’s not all about you, they have a role too. It’s rarely a good presentation when there is no audience participation at all, so try to think about it as a group event with yourself as the lead.

·       Think of what you are sharing as a story or a journey, that way it is easier to recall naturally (learning a script is rarely a good thing to do!) and people are more likely to be engaged and want to reach the end with you! If you’re using case studies, this is particularly powerful. Stories are not just for children’s bedtimes.

·       There will always be at least one person who is outwardly encouraging. Locate that person early and any time you are feeling anxious, look for them. Usually they are nodding with encouragement and will smile frequently.

·       Even though it may be career limiting due to the consequences, at the end of the day you can walk out at any point. Just having that in mind can help!

·       What’s the worst that can happen? Die, maybe, but probably not!

Importantly, start slowly. Begin by presenting something to people you know well, such as your team or a friendly client. Start with a familiar topic and build your confidence in small steps before putting yourself forward for a big presentation in front of many people you don’t know!

I work with clients to help them with every aspect of how they come across in their presentations – thinking about the message, as well as what they are saying about themselves in the way they present, ultimately to engage their audience. It’s about being yourself as much as you can, to engage others in your material. Being someone else is not an option! 

I recently worked with a Director at a large accountancy firm who was going for Partner, I am delighted to say he got the role. It might only have been a 10 minute presentation to the Exec but it has made all the difference to the next stage of his career. If you’d like to explore how you could get into presenting or improve your current style, whether it be generally or for a specific opportunity (yes that is what a presentation is – an opportunity!), get in touch [email protected]. All sessions are highly practical and tailored to exactly what you require.