Pitching an idea? Presenting a brand plan? Leading a workshop? You don't have to be Tony Robbins with a room full of coal walkers to hold the attention of the audience and get your points across clearly. But you should be aware of some common pitfalls that can sabotage your delivery and dilute your message. Here are some speaking blunders you may recognize:
1. The lecturer. You know your points and you need to make them. But remember that the best presentations feel more like an interaction with the audience than like a dissertation at a college lecture hall.
People want to be engaged, intrigued and respected. Allow them to participate and they will reward you with questions, comments and feedback—the very best signs that they are hearing you and that they care about what you have to say.
2. The mover. When you're standing in front of people, it can be really hard to hold your ground. But don't be that "roving presenter" or nervous hand wringer whose movements distract from the points being made.
This goes double for anyone holding up a visual like a creative board—there's nothing worse than trying to focus in on an image that's moving around.
3. The echoer. This is the speaker who restates anything that someone else says. Also known as "the piggyback answerer," this person tries to maintain control of the room by having the last word.
It's better to let discussion be organic and not be driven by the need to look smart and sum up every point.
4. The storyteller. There's a lot of great experience in pharma, and we've all become the people we are through our track records of success. Still, it's good to be cautious about telling brand stories.
We've probably all met the one person who never really got over that big launch in 1995. As Calvin Harris and Ne-Yo say, "It's not about what you've done, it's about what you're doing."
5. The PowerPoint killer. Nothing can bog down a good presentation the way too many words on a slide can.
Strong presenters know their content inside out and use projected slides not as a script, but rather as prompts or as emphasis for their most important ideas.
6. The shaker. It is hard to get up in front of a room, and we've all heard how many people are terrified of public speaking. Still, if your voice is shaking, your pallor is alarming, and your hand trembles as you lift your bottled water to your lips, it's time to learn some relaxation techniques.
Your audience is going to be too afraid you're going to keel over to listen to what you have to say.
Giving presentations isn't easy, and it's hard to be prepared for everything that can go wrong. I once watched, helpless, as a brand manager with spinach in his teeth introduced a new creative campaign to a room full of reps.
But if you avoid these speaking blunders, know your stuff, practice like crazy, and trust your audience, odds are your next presentation will be fun and memorable. In a good way.