Instead of dreading it, look at speaking opportunity as a chance to advance.
Q: In my job, I often create detailed presentations for others to present. I’ve been told that if I’m to advance in my career, I need more visibility and that I should push to do more of the presentations myself. I am basically an introvert and I am not comfortable in front of groups, although I have a very good grasp of the information in the presentation. I’ve even had some presentation training. In addition, the people currently presenting the information likely won’t willingly let me take over, as they appreciate the visibility, too. What should I do? —Rene, 52, manager, financial analysis
A: Find a middle ground that helps you build your comfort while sharing the spotlight.
I’ll first invite you to look at some of the words you used: “should” and “need to.” This language does not ring with desire on your part. So, start by considering what you want. Do you, in fact, want to advance in your career?
If so, to what level and what will that require in terms of continued professional growth?
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And a caution: Even if you don’t want to move into upper levels of management, beware of stagnation.
If you do not continue to develop professionally in terms of knowledge or skills, you increase your risk at times of corporate reorganization or cutbacks.
In any case, since you are posing this question, let’s assume you would like to work through this presentation barrier.
For most people, the biggest challenge isn’t the actual speaking skills — it’s anxiety about taking the front of the room.
At the same time, reassuring yourself about the skills you have can be a tactic that will help you calm your fears.
For example, anchor yourself in your knowledge of the content and figure out how to use that knowledge to your best advantage. Let’s say that you are afraid of boring your audience. One cause is mismatching the audience’s need and the level of detail you provide.
You can prep by crafting audience-appropriate talking points so that you keep them engaged. Then don’t let your nerves lead you to dump too much detail — let them ask for more information.
In terms of the people currently presenting, consider a co-presenter role. For more technical people, sharing the middle section with the more data-driven content is often more comfortable.
How about crafting presentations that have the current presenters setting up the session and doing the wrap-up? They would get their face time, you would get more visibility and it could help ease you into greater comfort.
Once you are up there, success will build on success and, again, practice will give you these first successes.
When you are getting ready for a presentation, be very specific about what your key messages are. Then focus on cutting out extraneous content.
Practice using dynamic voice tones and rhythms. Be sure to practice out loud because, let’s face it, words are always our friends when we’re just thinking them!
In the end, there is no substitute for practice. Whether it’s Toastmasters, low risk internal meetings or other settings, you will only get more comfortable by putting yourself into that uncomfortable situation.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.