One of my wonderful coaching clients, an inspiring female leader, asked if I knew of any good presentation skills courses she could go on.
Of course, I could have provided her with some recommendations but I sensed this needed exploring.
She shared that she frequently had to deliver presentations to large audiences of varying composition around a range of topics. Over the years she had received great feedback from many and sensed that communication was a key strength of hers. But recently she had received feedback from an influential member of the business suggesting that she needed to prepare more for her presentations and would benefit from a presentation skills course.
On talking it became clear that the more she took on board this feedback and worked harder to plan the content and try to remember it word for word, the more jumbled her presentations became and the more tongue tied she found herself. And of course the more feedback she received.
Prior to her recent feedback she had been intuitively keeping her mind free from scripts and detailed content that she was trying to remember so that the words could naturally flow through her. She had been getting out of her own way and letting her clear mind allow fresh thinking to come through her in the moment. Her presentations as a result were responsive, interactive and natural.
Post the feedback which she dutifully took on board she started to endlessly prepare creating a detailed script leaving nothing to chance. By doing so she was innocently turning her back on the limitless source of fresh thinking and overloading her mind with a script in an attempt to deliver a word perfect presentation She was moving from naturally presenting in the moment to feeling constrained, inadequate and forced. She was relying on her intellect, forgetting that she had access to a more wise and creative intellect within that she had so instinctively been following previously.
She was feeling like her ability to present was going downhill fast and so believed that a presentation skills course was what she needed.
Now whether it be presentations, coming up with creative solutions or writing a communication the same things apply. When you create space within the task at hand, you allow fresh thinking and ideas to come to you.
So another course, another technique or another tool is often not the solution we need. In fact it’s often as simple as taking a bit of time before the activity, presentation or otherwise, when you have nothing else on your mind, and see what pops up. Don’t overthink, don’t go into the minutiae of detail but capture any fresh ideas or themes that bubble through. Then bring this short list of themes with you to refer to if you need it during the activity whilst allowing there to be lots of space for more ideas to be generated in the moment.
We are so much more incredibly designed to excel than we give ourselves credit for. The journey is simply to be courageous enough to trust it.