To become a natural presenter you must behave unnaturally

May 25 2010 by Janet Howd Print This Article

Often when I am encouraging clients to deliver presentations clearly and loudly enough to be heard in public I am told, "But that doesn't feel natural to me."

"Good," I say. "That's the best initial reaction you could possibly have".

Performing in public isn't natural. It's an extraordinary thing for you or anyone to have to do. So, the more extra-ordinarily different you feel as you start to get to grips with this physically demanding task and the more extra-ordinarily different the sounds you are prepared to make - the better!

If you were a grain of wheat would you think it natural to be ground down and turned into flour, put through a sieve, beaten in a mix of eggs and milk then heated to a quivering pulp to come out as a pancake? No of course not.

The stages that must be gone through to be processed as flour are completely different from the innateness of being a member of the grass family. To become bread that will appeal to as many different taste buds as possible is not natural for wheat, rye or barley or any other grain.

It is only through the effortful mixing and melding of those grains with water, yeast, fruit etc, that a consumable loaf or batch of buns that will appeal to as wide a variety of tastes as possible can appear.

Unnatural things happen to most animal, vegetable and mineral substances to make them more adaptable and valuable to mankind than if left to their own devices. Water gets turned to steam or ice or is harnessed to produce power. Iron and steel are melded together to form a stronger more tensile metal than either could achieve alone. Silica is transformed into panes of glass. Animals are harnessed for work or tamed for companionship. Plants are transformed into food clothing and medicine.

None of these things happen "naturally." All have to be worked on to produce the desired end result.

Activities such as giving presentations, delivering conference papers, facilitating seminars, running workshops, passing on information to others in any communal way are not natural. They are contrivances devised since time immemorial as the means by which the information that one person owns can best be disseminated to as many and as varied listeners as possible.

The discomfort of trial and error is part of the deal you must make with yourself to get to a position where other people attending your sessions are not made uncomfortable by your ineptness as you put across the knowledge you own.

We presenters must be prepared to put ourselves through the pain and discomfort of feeling extra-ordinary and silly in order to gain access to the comfort zone in which elements of stance, rhythm, flow, tune, pitch and vocal volume can express ideas openly and clearly. Our tongues must learn a multiplicity of percussive tricks and manipulate the space behind the face to produce the varied tonal qualities that will entice or command other people's comprehension. Our memories must incorporate unusual words with specific meaning into our vocabularies and our bodies know how best to support us as we perform to inform.

Set to then and put yourself through the embarrassment of turning the old unnatural into the new natural before you face an audience; because - believe me - the embarrassment you will experience if your presentation falls apart when you face an audience can be devastating!

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.

Older Comments

Performing in public is natural for some just as speaking through pen in natural for someone else.These aspects cannot be compared with wheat becoming flour and then pancake where no mental activity is involved.If a good writer by nature makes effort to give a presentation he/she may not fail but cannot make a good job as a good speaker for whom thoughts and ideas flow effortlessly as he/she progress through the presentation.Similarly a good speaker may write an article on a topic but may not be able to convey the ideas as effectively as a natural writer who will convey the subject as though he/she is speaking to the reader.

A.R.Subbalakshmi India