Your Best Face Forward
Whenever you have to
give a presentation, whether it’s a job interview, a sales
presentation, or a toast at your daughter’s wedding, someone always
tells you to “just be yourself.”
When people tell you to “be
yourself” – they’re picturing you as you are when you’re among
close friends: relaxed, comfortable, maybe even funny and charming.
And in that setting, feeling relaxed and comfortable, among
friends, it’s only natural that you “have fun”.
The problem is that
few people can summon up that version of themselves in such a very
different setting. Staring
at an audience of a hundred people at a wedding toast, or at a
stone-faced group of executives in a boardroom is a lot different than
sitting down at a dinner table with a group of close friends.
It takes a lot of
energy to put on a mask of what we think we should be like when
we’re in front of others. But
how do we get to that place of authenticity when we’re in a place
where we can’t help but feel that others are judging us? The secret
is get to a place where you don’t have to pretend, where you really
do feel confident and comfortable in what you’re doing.
something you can do with tips someone will give you right before you
step onto a stage or into a boardroom – it’s a process of learning
and applying techniques to steadily improve your performance. Here are
some proven techniques (and tips) to get you started:
Get a coach: Even the coaches need a
coach. Nobody does it by
himself or herself, and there’s no reason they should. If you’re
going on job interviews, find a professional to give you some
coaching. You might be losing jobs because of something you are doing
that you are not even aware of. Or,
if you have to do an important presentation, get feedback beforehand
from someone you trust who can give you specific advice.
Possibly it will be to take that nose ring out of your
When things go wrong – admit it!: Standup comics use
this technique all the time. They
“call” the situation. If
you say something really dumb, you can salvage the situation by
saying, “Lets see, what other stupid things can I say.”
Jon Stewart uses
this technique all the time on Comedy Central’s Daily Show.
When things don’t get a laugh, he looks right at the camera
and says, “Awkward!” Nobody is perfect, and trying to be can read
as arrogance. “Calling”
what is going on can save the day.
Even when you are giving a speech, it’s a dialogue:
So many speakers give their speech as if nobody is in the room with
them. They are
“Robo-speakers” running on automatic pilot.
Whether you are giving a speech or reciting a memorized list of
your accomplishments at a job interview – you have to leave room for
people to react. And when
others react (or don’t react) you need to respond.
A way to get a reaction is to ask questions.
Good speakers will ask rhetorical questions, “How are you all
If you are in front
of a large group, it’s not a good idea to ask any questions that
require anything other then a “yes” or a “no.”
“Did you all see the football game last night?”
That’s better than, “Which game did you watch last
night?” You need to be
in charge, and the last thing you want is someone yakking more than
Don’t “wow” your audience: When speakers
first start, they often feel the need to be “great.”
That usually means being something bigger and better than just
them. Some even gesture
wildly, speak overly loud and pace furiously.
In show business there is a saying, “less is more,” which
means that sometimes, just simply standing in one place, no movement,
and focusing on your message will create a more powerful presentation
than trying to create phony energy.
annoying habits and eliminate them:
people say the work “like” in every sentence, or some laugh a fake
laugh after each of their jokes. Videotape
yourself and see what annoying habits you have.
While you may not notice these things, the audience is going to
notice and is going to get annoyed. To
cure yourself, do it repeatedly before
your interview or speech. This
will create awareness of it.
If you follow these
suggestions, you’ll find it much easier to “be yourself” and
“have fun” – since your presentations will be running more
smoothly and you’ll feel the resulting confidence that will let you
relax without the need to put on any artificial persona.
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