Be yourself, only better
The term present connotes giving a performance, with all of the formality and pomp that implies. But it can also mean being present; in other words, being our true and authentic selves in each moment with the group.
Henderson and Henderson (2007) argue that the most effective presenters engage the audience in ways that feel like a one-on-one conversation. The qualities of a performance versus a conversation are summarized in the diagram below:
Some strategies include:
- Making eye contact that encompasses all sections of the audience (left to right, front to back).
- Exercising self-awareness with respect to what makes you unique, appealing and enjoyable to be with? Leverage these qualities in your presentation style.
- Intentionally modulating your vocal tone and phrasing consistent with a conversational approach.
- Carefully considering the audience, including their needs, wisdom and experience (individually and collectively).
Of course, I don’t deny that presenting is different from a casual conversation. There is formality, gravity and hierarchy to it (as in the diagram above). But the more we see of you – the real you – the better. We’re most engaged when we can identify with the other person (even just a little). When their experiences connect to ours.
Sure, we’re all special, but we’re also all human. It’s a bit of a paradox: The more you express your unique and unreproducable humanness, the more universally engaging you are as a presenter. Easier said than done (especially when performance anxiety is a kind of enemy of authenticity – check out 5 tips for Coping with Stage Fright).
But there it is: that’s the journey!