It’s easy to understand why so many otherwise capable people are distressed, anxiety-ridden, and almost paralyzed if they’re called upon to make a presentation about annuities, life insurance or other insurance protection products — even to a friendly audience of three — let alone 300. They often reveal how they feel by starting out with “I only wish I had more time to prepare” or “I’m not really good at public speaking.” Unfortunately, what follows proves it.
It isn’t surprising that with successful presenters the story is different. We view them as possessing leadership capabilities, as well as being committed, competent, and rising stars. As more than one person has said after a presentation by such a person, “That’s my future boss” or “She’s going to run the place.”
— Read A Dozen Ways to Be Your Company’s Most Valued Employee on ThinkAdvisor.
What is it that separates capable presenters from those who struggle? Why do some presentations elicit enthusiastic responses, while others are, frankly, dismal failures? Is it the content, the preparation, the person, or something else?
Research by Caroline J. Wesson, Ph.D., at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK, may help to understand the issue: The perceived confidence that listeners have in a speaker determines how they regard the person’s “accuracy, competence, and knowledge level.” Then, Dr. Wesson adds, “The more confidently expressed that information is, the more likely it is to be followed.”
Is it possible that the primary difference between a highly-regarded presentation and one that gets low ratings is the speaker’s confidence? Is it possible that a superbly prepared presentation can fall flat because of the presenter’s lack of confidence?
By all measures, Jack Welch, the former GE CEO and Chairman, was not just brilliant but an exceptional business leader. Although he gave hundreds of speeches and presentations during his career, he didn’t take chances on how they would be received. For example, when he was getting ready to speak on the occasion of his retirement, he engaged a well-known former radio and TV news correspondent to coach him.
For Jack Welch, every presentation made a difference. He understood that his legacy depended on more than his words. As a child, he stuttered, but he learned from his mother that confidence could help him overcome his limitations.
Why is confidence so formidable and influential in presenting? We can find the answer in what presentations are meant to accomplish. Whatever else they may do, their goal is to persuade. Listeners throw down the gauntlet. They challenge presenters to convince, sway, and motivate them. They want to know why they should buy what you’re selling. They want to know why they should join your cause or accept your proposal. In other words, listeners want to know what to do. Logic alone doesn’t do it; it requires confidence.
Why should you take presenting seriously? Why is it worth your time and effort to send the message that you will do what others fear. Why is it one of the most valued skillsets in business? It demonstrates that you have the ability—the skill—to influence others—and opens the doors to advancement.
Rules for Building Confidence
Just saying that confidence is needed isn’t enough.
Here are rules that help achieve the confidence goal.
Rule #1. Prepare properly.