To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Confidence, Compassion, Professionalism: Present Yourself Powerfully,” by Cherie Sohnen-Moe, in the May 2011 issue. Article summary: Everything you do and say contributes to your overall image. Presenting yourself powerfully means exuding an image of confidence, compassion and professionalism.

by Lisa Braithwaite

1. Find what you love about your topic. There is no such thing as a dry topic, yet plenty of speakers are stumped when it comes to making their presentations engaging. There’s something about your presentation topic you love and feel passionate about. Dig deep, find it and use it in your presentation.

Find the humor, personal stories and analogies to your audience’s lives. Seek out the aspects of your topic that are universal and your audience can connect to, and your presentation will shine, no matter how clinical or technical it may be.

2. Never apologize. We’ve all heard a speaker stand up and say, “I’m sorry, I’m really nervous. I’m not good at this.” Here’s why this is a terrible idea. First, to be blunt, your audience doesn’t care. They are there for their own enrichment, and your problems are not interesting to them.

Second, you have just drawn attention to something the audience probably would never have noticed. Now they’re on the lookout for your nerves.

Third, a statement like this just creates negative energy instead of positive energy. Most mistakes you make will never be noticeable to an audience, so don’t bother apologizing for something they don’t see anyway. Stay positive, and if you do make a visible error, briefly explain, have a laugh and move on.

3. View mishaps as part of the deal. When we give presentations, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Technology might fail. You might lose your place. You might not bring enough handouts. You might run out of time.

These things happen. But many speakers dwell on the what ifs and allow a big buildup of anxiety about what could go wrong. Instead, plan and prepare for things to go wrong. Bring extra handouts. Have notes nearby in case you lose your place. Bring a countdown timer with you so you can keep track of how much time you have left. Have extra batteries on hand so if your presentation remote runs out of juice, you can be back in business in a flash.

Also, it’s important to remember you can’t control everything. Sometimes there’s just a glitch, and you have to roll with it.

Audiences don’t expect you to be perfect. They’re human. You’re human. But they do expect you to handle mistakes with poise and humor, not to fall apart at the slightest problem. Be prepared for anything, and keep your sense of humor about presentation mishaps. They’ll make a good story someday.

4. Embrace your unique qualities. Each of us has qualities that make us unique. We have our own style of speaking, sense of humor and way of expressing ourselves. This is what makes us stand out from the crowd as a speaker. So why would you even think of trying to be like someone else?

The second you begin to copy another speaker’s mannerisms, speech patterns, presentation style or anything else that’s not you, you lose yourself. The audience won’t connect with you because you are too busy trying to be someone else. You will come across as canned, artificial and inauthentic.

Embrace your uniqueness: your flaws, your creativity of expression, your look, your personality and your humor. Your audience will appreciate getting to know you and will better relate to you and your topic.

Lisa Braithwaite is a public-speaking and presentation-skills coach (www.coachlisab.com).

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