Introduction to Winning Presentations

I have spent many years teaching people of all ages, abilities, and disabilities, how to swim.  The first thing I teach them is, not kicking, or arm strokes, or blowing bubbles out of their noses… bubbles come second… I teach them how to go to the safest place to be in the water… I teach them to float on their backs.  Many of them are so terrified of sinking that their bodies become rigid bricks and they find themselves flailing, choking, and sinking, never knowing that they were the ones making it happen, not the water.  I approach them with a quiet energy and say “Cha-Cha-Cha… Chin Back- Chest Up- Chill Out.”  I put what I call my mermaid music on my Neptune SwimP3 under the water, and eventually the bricks in their bodies soften into malleable clay and suddenly they find that when they relax, chin back, chest up and chilled out, they can float, fly and even dance through water.  Cha-Cha- Cha.

I have found that this chant transfers well to land.  When going into unfamiliar waters, like an interview, class, or board room full of CEO’s, an adjustment of the chin can help you breathe.  Lungs full of air and a proud chest can help you float through challenges.  Chilling out, softens the bricks into malleable, movable muscles.  Cha-cha cha.

Between 8 and 18% of people suffer from Aquaphobia. Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking.  According to the VCU syllabus for Winning Presentations,  “65% of people fear speaking in public speaking enough to avoid it, 25% have no problems with it and only 10% have real phobias about it.”

What is it exactly that people fear most about speaking in public? That their audience won’t like them, and even more than that, they fear that they’ll forget what to say. Because of this, people unconsciously spend most of their time working on slides… their cue card crutches,  and wait until just before the presentation to practice their delivery, if they practice out loud and on their feet at all.

That problem has magnified because of the invention of software programs like Power Point that make it easy to create slides. If you are like most people, you have fallen under the spell of the power point pixie dust that sets you up to believe that if you make a good slide show, you’ll be able to turn your back-side to your audience, read the slides to them, and be considered a good presenter.

Regardless of your backside,  who you are and what you do… be you a student, job applicant, employee, or employer… your success depends upon how well you communicate with others. Communication is key, and it requires that you develop the skills to run a class, a meeting, pitch an idea, and motivate anyone and everyone to invest their time energy and money into your idea.

Winning Presentations dispels the “conventional myths” that shape our attitudes about speaking in public and add to our anxiety. There is no imagining of the audience in their underwear in here… (the audience gets to keep their clothes and integrity).  Students will learn acting techniques, exercises, and games that will help them transform their fear, into excitement.  They will learn how to avoid being a side show to their slide show.  I have seen even the shyest of students learn how to take the podium, take the mike, take the space, and make their ideas heard in a dynamic, creative, engaging way.

I was one of those terrified shy kids myself.  The first time I ever stood on a stage I burst into tears.  I understand fear.  I outgrew and outworked it. Taking drama in high school taught me to, as the great acting coach Stanislavsky preached, “Act as if” I wasn’t shy.  I learned to assume the attributes of people that I considered to be “normal”, and even powerful.  I get to create who I am.  I have spent decades on stage, in front of cameras, and classrooms in a vast range of roles since then.  A friend recently called me a “career communicator”, and teaching others how to do what I have done, has been empowering and life changing.

It is never too late, or too soon, to learn to speak with authority, gravity, humor, and grace.  Allow me to help your students  present with preparedness and panache.  Moving forward without fear may just change their lives too.  They may just turn it into a dance.

Cha- Cha-Cha.