Have you ever tried a dish and just savored it for it’s extraordinary taste? Perhaps it contained recognizable food items that you have eaten a zillion times over. However, this particular recipe incorporated at least one or two unidentifiable additions. The result? An exquisite dining experience that had your taste buds tingling with delight.
I am confident that most of us have probably had a culinary experience that left us wondering what made it so extraordinary.
Enter: The Secret Ingredients
As this blog is still about public speaking, I won’t be revealing any of my grandmother’s recipes to her secret sauces. However, I do want to share with you some of the special ingredients used in creating presentation confidence.
Presentation Secret Sauce: BUILDING on WINS
There are three types of wins I would like to explore. They include historical, future and audience wins and each is directly linked to your presentation confidence.
In order to illustrate these points, I will draw upon two very good fictional friends of mine. Let me introduce you to Terrible Tom and Passionate Patty. They are two different people who view the world in utterly different ways.
1. HISTORICAL WINS:
Terrible Tom is a guy who is not entirely terrible at many of the things he does in life. His moniker is largely driven by his view towards activities he has trouble handling. One such example is public speaking. Tom becomes rather unsettled when he is called upon to lead or simply join presentations at work. He is equally fearful of speaking in front of others at social gatherings.
Ironically, Tom is masterful at something. Tom has an uncanny ability to remember each and every speaking failure he has ever had–whether that was a flubbed line or a key point he failed to effectively communicate. He really is amazing at this and can even reach back to his elementary school days to reinforce his self-belief that:
HE. IS. A. TERRIBLE. PRESENTER.
On the other hand, Passionate Patty’s views towards presentations and life, in general, are in clear juxtaposition to Tom’s. She harnesses the power of one specific thing–her passion.
Sure, she can also recall many past mistakes. Who doesn’t have an inventory of blunders filed away in one’s mind? However, more often than not, she also draws reference to a different set of memories she keeps stored away.
You see, Passionate Patty is keyed in on building an enormous inventory of wins. This is her SECRET Sauce to preparing for presentations.
She takes the time to identify, mentally note and visualize her past success as far as public speaking goes. She still gets nervous for her work-related presentations much like Tom does but she does not despair. No, no, no.
She instantly overrides her negative thoughts with the memories that illustrate her prowess when speaking in front of others.
The results of the efforts put forth by Tom and Patty vary enormously relating to presentation confidence. I must add, that they shouldn’t be so different. Tom is a very talented and intelligent imaginary individual. He’s one of the best I have. He simply falls into a trap of perpetual negative reinforcement that drives his thoughts and feelings toward disempowering views.
Does this sound familiar? I am rather confident that a lot of us get caught up in the trap of Terrible Tom thought patterns. Unfortunately, those ideas can really influence our views towards things like public speaking. On the flip side, I am equally sure that you simultaneously possess the same natural abilities that Passionate Patty leverages to her benefit.
The trick of it all is coming up with your own unique secret presentation sauce. How do we do this? It’s easy. Simply start patting yourself on the back and counting your wins. Come on, how often are you invited to do that? It’ll be fun. I’ve actually created a workbook for you to help with this. You can grab it below.
I want you to dig into the recesses of your mind to uncover your own outstanding public speaking memories. One qualifier here and it is a biggie. Your memory need not be of you bringing the house down to adoring cheers, tears and or standing ovations. Although, that would be fabulous!
In essence, what you want to be doing is harkening back to the minor details that reinforce the notion that you CAN deliver aspects of presentations. These memories need not be complete or about a whole presentation in fact. It could be one line, one message, one tiny part of a speech that went well. It could even be the one shining moment out of an otherwise drab, usual or even terrible performance you gave.
What we are aiming to do is anchoring in a set of empowering memories. Ultimately, if we continue to consciously notice the wins, we will be able to build up this list to a point that it dwarfs the negative. The resulting effect is that we should be able to interrupt the negative thoughts and in effect build presentation confidence.
One simple way to do this is to consciously notice the negative thought or memory and instantly pounce on it by recounting a presentation win you have also had. You could even drown out the negative thought by calling in reinforcements. Fire a barrage of winning public speaking moments at your disempowering thought. See each of them. Feel each of them.
This technique, although simple, can have a massive effect towards dissipating your fears before they seriously threaten any upcoming speaking engagement you may have.
As noted earlier, your wins can be as small and minute as you wish. There is no one to judge you on them. These are your memories. Let me illustrate. I have a memory of a third-grade speech competition in which I placed second. I didn’t even win, yet this memory is still useful to me now.
To me, the significance is mine to define. I recall that I was very nervous and rather shy at that stage of my life. Yet somehow, I was able to pull off a rather good performance. That experience still speaks to me in terms of qualities I identified with then and still do, such as preparation, perseverance, and bravery.
You see, I recall meticulously researching my subject matter, rehearsing it at my dining room table and in front of my mother. I just knew that everyone would love my cat Muggsy just as much as I did when I was through with that speech.
Ridiculous? Perhaps you may think so. I don’t. Those traits and skills I employed at that time are still recognizable to me as far as how I define myself and personality to this day. Additionally, this memory is but one of many I have uncovered and re-replayed in my mind to serve me when my presentation confidence is wavering.
In truth, a lot of us hold onto the negative and subconsciously build that list of failure much more so than the successes or wins we have experienced.
It is unrealistic to assume that we will always have control over our negative thoughts. We are human after all. Our goal should be to let that destructive thought arise, acknowledge it without judgment and let it leave. We do not want to let it linger, build and morph into something larger.
Sounds easy enough in practice, but is that realistic? Can we train ourselves to do this?
What can we do when these negative memories are overpowering? There are solutions.
One would most certainly be the technique I previously noted about drawing upon past wins to nudge the negative thoughts out of our consciousness. That skill actually draws upon the next one I would like to introduce.
This practice has been riding a cultural wave of attention and adoration these days as several studies have shown its efficacy. More succinctly, it has been shown to improve one’s capacity to adeptly manage various stresses and pressures that arise in both high stakes moments and within the daily grind.
For those who are unfamiliar with mindfulness, it is a form of meditation that is geared toward achieving a clear mental state by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
I particularly like the plain English definition of mindfulness by NY times best selling author Dan Harris. He has written a book that essentially demystifies the art of mindfulness. In his words, the practice is defined as, “The skill of knowing what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”
If you recall, that is exactly what we are after! Being able to control the negative thoughts before they derail our efforts. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness the internet is in your corner. Simply check with your friend, Google.
2. AUDIENCE WINS vs PERSONAL WINS
Aside from drawing upon negative public speaking experiences, Terrible Tom also has this annoying habit of focusing entirely on himself. When he prepares for his presentations he is narrowly focussed on his version of a personal win.
To him, that means arranging his presentation in such a way that minimizes any potentially uncomfortable moments in the delivery. Low risk and play it safe are two of his main approaches.
Upon completing his talk, he is instantly focused on his own performance. In true Terrible Tom spirit, most of his self-evaluation is centered on the negative.
Let’s return to Passionate Patty. This gal has it nailed. She looks at her presentation in a different way. Namely, she evaluates wins as far as how well her various approaches to her presentation worked in reaching, connecting and educating her audience.
Her focus is always on helping others. Rather than asking her peers how SHE performed, she asks them whether THEY were able to learn or grasp the thrust of her presentation.
As you may have noticed, Patty puts the focus on others while Tom lasers in on himself. This is a major distinction which leads to very different results for both the presenter and audience.
In returning to you building on wins, this time the trick is to once again build your personal list of memories in which you can recall serving your audience in the most adept fashion possible. Perhaps this win was uncovered by a friend, colleague, boss, or even stranger mentioning something positive you said or did during a presentation.
The more comments you can compile in your mental storage, the better. However, it only takes one to get the proverbial ball rolling.
Of all the wins, this is the one that should carry the most weight. For what is your main objective when presenting? It is unequivocally to serve your audience’s needs whatever they may be.
When someone takes the time to acknowledge what a fine job you did, that is a sign you were able to reach that person on some level. By all accounts that is a win that you definitely want to hold onto. Cherish it. It means you are doing things well. It means that success will continue to come your way if you keep developing. Perhaps most importantly, your presentation confidence can build rapidly by employing this approach.
3. FUTURE WINS
Finally, let’s visit with Terrible Tom and Passionate Patty one last time. This time I’ll lead in with Patty. She is a wonderfully positive and pleasant individual for many of the reasons outlined earlier. One other aspect which reflects her personality is her ability to look into the future for wins that are surely on the way.
Aside from all of the effort she puts into her presentation creation and rehearsal, she visualizes herself doing everything right. Smooth deliveries, transitions, driving messages and of course outstanding audience interaction. These are but a few areas she concentrates on and sees herself nailing.
Patty once read an article on visualization. She discovered how various studies on the brain have unveiled just how powerful our imagination can be. When we are able to deeply feel and see ourselves doing something, the neurons in our brain begin to fire in much the same way as if we were actually performing that task.
The resulting effect of this is improved presentation confidence and WINS if our thoughts are centered on successful accomplishment.
I recently came across an interesting article which showed this principle in action. Less than five years ago there was a breakthrough in the study of paralysis. This research was looking into whether people who had been paralyzed for extended periods, still had neurons which would fire when visualizing something such as simple movement.
This study revealed a lot about the power of our mind. The idea was to connect the brain of a paralyzed individual to a computer program which would interpret signals that were being sent to it. The computer, in theory, would control a robotic arm and move it in accordance with the person’s will. In order for this to work, the individual’s visualization would have to be real and powerful.
The result was a resounding success! The man involved in the study was able to control the robotic hand simply based on his own mental thought. Stuff of science fiction right?! Wrong, this was real and completely driven on the power of visualization.
Again, our brain does not know always know when we are actually doing something versus mentally going through the motions. If the visualization is real enough, the brain will act in such a way that real neurons will fire. This all points to better performance and improved confidence when our mind is seeing and feeling success.
Even Terrible Tom can acknowledge this trick of the human mind.
Unfortunately, Tom as we all know, tends to focus on past failures rather than wins. So instead of harnessing this powerful tool of visualization to his advantage, he actually suffers from it. As you may recall, he is focused on his own historical missteps.
As a result, he tends to envision himself flaming out. If there is a particular section in a presentation that he has stumbled through during his rehearsal, he will dwell on this. Replaying this imaginary scenario in his mind over and over invariably leads to further anxiety. Tom pretty much wears in that path to the cliff’s edge so that when it’s time, there is no doubt where he will end up. His presentation confidence is perpetually low.
Poor Tom, is he destined for never-ending failure?
I would like to answer with a resounding NO! He simply needs to get in the kitchen and start experimenting with his own presentation secret sauces. A generous helping of historical and audience wins followed by a dash of future wins could be a good start.
By now you will have hopefully seen just how important the idea of a win is when it comes to presentation confidence.
Here are but a few ideas lightly summarized:
* Historical wins (no matter how big or small) matter.
* A mental storage of wins build presentation confidence.
* Focus heavily on audience wins for they ultimately matter the most.
* Audience wins lead to empowerment, new understandings, and potential breakthroughs.
* Audience wins can also lead to presenter wins such as added respect, job offers, promotions, etc.
* Visualizing future presentation wins is critical to ongoing speaking success.
* Wins when visualized, create pathways to a successful execution of presentations.
* Wins transform poor to average presentations into something more.
* Wins combat negative disempowering thoughts.
Building on wins is your secret sauce to successful presentations. You don’t want your natural talents and ideas to be constrained by disempowering thoughts and memories. Your ability to confidently deliver content, improvise and drive home your ideas is dependent on you concocting a sauce that reflects your unique and positive views toward the art of presentation.
The very best presenters do this. Why don’t you get started too?
To assist in this process I have created a presentation recipe card for you to record, update and keep track some of your very best presentation wins. Click below to get started!
Take the time to fill it out! In jotting some of these ideas down, you will be better positioned to execute in a way that will surely please.
As always, I’d be honored if you shared your comments or felt inspired enough to blast any part of this post out into the social sphere!