Presentation Skills, Golf and Singing! Confidence Tricks 9
The following article is by Richard who works in the banking industry. I’m hoping we are going to receive more contributions from him in 2009…
I have always had a ‘problem’ talking to groups of people. I knew I was effective talking in one to one situations but never had the confidence to speak in Group situations. What would occur is that I would either undertake lots of planning so that I had an ‘overbusy’ script or I would just note down headings. But in each case, when the time actually came to deliver it, I would freeze and I would just want to get through the presentation as quickly as possible-either rushing through the notes or missing out entire areas completely.
I recently heard an old colleague of mine give a 2hr presentation virtually without a note and shortly afterwards I also listened to another chap by the name of Adrian Gilpin who did much the same thing. They both intrigued me-I kept asking myself, why can they talk in front of a large group of people apparently without notes and I can’t?
I made a point of bumping into my colleague who I hadn’t seen for 20 years and after congratulating him, I politely enquired how he managed to produce such a talk, effortlessly and so fluently without notes to which he replied ‘he had all the thoughts and knowledge but it was a question of getting them out in the right order’.
This just stuck in the back of my mind and I really didn’t think much more about it until earlier in the year when I started a new job. Part of the role was talking to groups of people-some I knew, others I didn’t.
I had undertaken Presentation skills training courses in various guises in the past whereby they had taught the basics of presentation but they never really covered the issue of confidence-the confidence to actually get up and just do it. I always had to be cajoled into it.
My first presentation was an unmitigated disaster-I had ‘over-prepared’ in terms of notes and ‘under prepared’ in terms of delivery. In every presentation, there is the singer and the song. I had a well written song-but couldn’t sing it. The next couple of presentations were slightly better but I was never comfortable and I really had to push myself to do them. I knew that I had to do something positive about it.
I did some searching on the web for the Alexander Technique and came across Alan Mars website and got in touch with him. I explained in our first telephone conversation how I would get nervous before a presentation and then ‘bottle’ it and he explained how adrenalin affects the body and he said there were techniques (tools as he called them) that I could use that would help me take control of these situations. This seemed to make sense because I likened it to playing golf. When I first learned to play, I would just walk up to the ball and hit it and sure enough it would go anywhere-probably anywhere but straight! After a period I learned a set up routine and I now have to go through that procedure before hitting every ball…feet, posture, hands and grip etc. Alan recalled a story of a client, a Solicitor, whom he had taught to sing but who also was helped with his golf game by using Alan’s skills. I said I was interested in meeting him and having an initial session but that he would not get me singing!
At our first meeting Alan did some ‘centering’ with me, he got me reciting a poem, he taught me how to control my breathing and lastly to start using my voice. This last thing is interesting because he had me humming which I would not have done openly before our meeting. What was more unusual was that his colleague turned up towards the end of the session and I was humming in front of her and also reciting a poem. At the end of the session he said I should go carefully as I might be feeling a little ‘high’.
The next few days were unbelievable-I practised using my voice at every opportunity and I noticed that people started to listen to me more than they had done previously. I had been working on a new Presentation and I was able to finish off preparing it very quickly and then deliver it without notes-talking without eermms and aarrhs for 15/20 minutes.
Something else that changed was that I had a sudden surge in confidence. I am an average golfer (handicap 18) and that weekend following the visit to Alan I had put my name down for a club competition and had been paired with the Assistant Pro against the Captain and the Club Pro. Under normal circumstances, I should have been quaking in my boots but I wasn’t-I was quietly confident that as long as I maintained positive state of mind, I could match these players and use my shots wisely.
Standing on the first, I felt on top of the world as I smashed the ball down the middle of the fairway, then chipped on and 2 putted for a par to take the first hole. This sort of form followed the next few holes and by the 5th the Captain was a bag of nerves and I knew he had blown it mentally. I also knew that the Pro, who had been a Pro all his life was a different kettle of fish and it would take more than this to wear him down. Shortly afterwards, I overheard him mutter ‘he is fallible’ after I mis-hit one of my fairway shots…but that was a rarity.
It was ‘tit for tat’ and this went on until I won the 15th with a Par to go 1 up on the stroke index 2 hole. We halved the 16th and so should have set ourselves up for the win but a lapse in concentration meant we lost the 17th and then disaster, we also lost the 18th to lose the match by 1 hole.
Afterwards I could see the relief on the Captains face who was still trying to recover his composure and the Pro was most complimentary about my game and blamed the Assistant Pro for not closing out the game when we had had the opportunity.
Having discovered my voice from just one session, I am now seriously contemplating asking Alan to teach me to sing.