Wednesday 22 February 2017, London

This session was presented by Stephanie Hughes, a communications and presentations consultant who has spent the past decade chairing and facilitating meetings. Stephanie is an extremely seasoned presenter, having spent 18 years as a BBC broadcaster on national radio and television and now works with FTSE 100 CEOs.

We all face challenges in the workplace, whether it be influencing Partners, asking for more budget or even negotiating a pay rise.

People with the most impact and influence tend to have certain foundations in place that hold fast and true in any situation but importantly, they also have flexibility. Being the most influential person in the room is not about shouting the loudest - you also need to be a good listener so you can to craft an argument that can resonate with an audience.

Perception vs. reality

For most people, there’s a perception gap between what you think you’re doing and what other people perceive you doing. This especially applies if you are under pressure.

Filming yourself making an important speech, pitch or other presentation is a brilliant tool to help address this gap.

When you watch yourself back, split the signals.  First watch yourself with no sound, then listen to yourself but don’t look.

5 questions to ask yourself about what you see/hear on film:

1.    What am I doing well?

Many people immediately are extremely critical of how they look/act/sound when they first see themselves on film. Focus instead on the positives.

2.    How close am I getting to my ideas?

What 3 adjectives would you like people to say about you after watching your presentation? i.e. confident, persuasive, knowledgeable, approachable, authentic?

How close are you getting to these adjectives?

3.    Is my style too formal or too familiar?

4.    Is anything getting in the way?

You want people to primarily focus on the content of your pitch.  Is anything distracting people from the content? Are you too loud/too quiet? Are you fidgeting or standing rigidly still?

Know your content inside out.  As a general rule, people who don’t know their content well will have their eyes darting all over the place as they search for information in the brain. This can be particularly distracting when someone is speaking to camera.

 5.    How does my face/voice make others feel?

Mirror neurons help us mimic actions and emotions. What emotions are your actions and behaviors inciting in others?

Stephanie then went on to explain two key principles that contribute to successful presenting and pitching:

1.    Focus of attention

Having an external focus of attention can greatly improve performance

In order to achieve this, you have to be completely present and focus your attention outwards. When you focus your attention inwards, you start to have internal conversations with yourself and this can cause you to lose your train of thought and feel increasingly stressed.

Focus of attention is compromised with multitasking, so focus on one or two tasks at a time.

2.    Energy

A Harvard Business School Study concluded that successful people have energy.  However, getting the balance right is important.

Having too much energy

Looks: over the top

Feels: uncomfortable

Makes people think: not credible

Having too little energy

Looks: Cold/distant

Feels: Boring

Makes people think: Not relevant

You should aim to have enough energy which comes across as:
“I don’t want to be anywhere else, talking to anyone else about anything else.”

Using your hands when presenting gives you energy.


Things that can deplete energy

1.    Dealing with a difficult audience

When presenting, we can gain or lose energy depending on the audience’s reaction. 

Audience proofing is a good way to train yourself or your fee earner to deal with this if, for example, you are preparing for an important pitch or presentation.

When practicing your speech, ask the audience to maintain a blank expression and show no emotion or encouragement. This will be distracting and off-putting at first, but with practice it will help you prepare for a difficult audience.

2.    Being unclear about purpose

To define the purpose of your presentation, ask yourself these 2 key questions:

What is the audience thinking/feeling/doing about this at the moment?

What do I want them to be thinking/feeling/doing by the time I finish?

Think about the effect your words can have on others. Do you want to:

Inform? convince? entertain? humiliate? inspire? challenge?

3.    Feeling stressed or nervous

One of the best tools in the public speaking circuit to help calm nerves is power breathing – make the out breath longer than the in breath.

Power posing for 2 minutes beforehand can also help you feel more confident (Amy Cuddy has done a great TED talk on this).

4.    Using poor content

No matter how good the delivery, it won’t make up for poor quality content. Always prepare thoroughly. 


By Sarah Lisneuf, Senior Marketing Executive at Ambition
Professional Services BD, Marketing & Communications Recruitment Specialists