Teresa Vasquez, MBA, EdD
Sr. Developer at Campaign Monitor
August 22 , 2018 · 10 min read
Feature: 6 Strategies to Present Your Idea According to Your Unique Style
At my alma mater, our motto is “Esse Quam Videri,” which means “To be, rather than to seem.” When I first began teaching adults, I didn’t fully understand the impact of this simple phrase, yet it kept popping in my head every time I taught or tried to engage my students in ways that seemed foreign to me. I essentially was trying to copy someone else's style and make it my own, which was very painful for everyone involved. And believe me...it showed...A LOT!
I began asking myself questions about who I am as an individual and what makes me unique. I looked at the topics I was teaching and wondered how I could bring my own unique experiences, ideas, and perspectives to my teaching in order to remain authentic and become effective.
Teaching is not all that different than presenting an idea or concept. As a matter of fact, I would argue that they are one in the same. I know this because I have not only taught adults, I have also presented at conferences and keynoted several events and the preparation is very much the same. I also am the same person every time I take the stage, so there is no need in my emulating someone else who has already found their own style through trial and error.
I used to envy those who seemed to be naturals at speaking and presenting their ideas until I realized they all had one thing in common: they seemed comfortable in their own skin.
In this article, I am going to share 6 strategies for learning how to find your style and presenting according to that unique style because, as I tell my kids, ‘Babe, there is only one you and you are amazing the way you are, so always do you! No matter what!’
- To Thine Own Self Be True
Are you an extrovert - you get your energy from people - and are fired up when it comes to sharing with others, or are you like me, an introvert - you get your energy from self reflection and alone time - and know after you share your idea you’re going to need to crash for at least 3 days!
What are your quirks? What can throw you off your game? When are you the life of the party? What makes you smile from just thinking about it? What gets you fired up? Need I go on? I think you’ve got the idea. Knowing all of these things and more about yourself can tell you who you need to be when you present your idea.
For your communication style ask yourself: Are you a task oriented or people person? Do you like to take your time to accomplish things or move quickly? This will impact your voice and how you present your ideas. Here is a video of an activity I learned years ago at a marriage conference that I still use in my classroom today. This will help you know your communication style and what fears you may encounter during preparation to present your idea and during the presentation itself.
Once you know your communication style, you can make sure to stay true to it as you prepare your presentation. This knowledge will make sure that you remain authentic and are true to your real self because your audience needs you to be you! So, please oblige.
- Know the Content, but Stay Humble (and Confident)
You don’t have to be THE expert, but you need to be an expert of sorts on the topic or idea you are presenting. You should know the facts, use reliable sources, and, if need be, consult other experts. If you are a designer or developer, complete research about your user. Be able to state facts that lay a foundation for your idea, but also be willing to hear others out and have valuable feedback that can continue the conversation long after you leave the stage.
Present as an expert, but remember you are not the only expert in the room. There will always be people who have more knowledge than you about the topic you are presenting, but you are the presenter and should be confident about what you know, so remember, this is a conversation and your presentation is the opening to the dialog.
- Know Your Audience
Is your audience either seasoned vets or newbs? Understanding this will let you know how to start your presentation. You will always need an attention grabber in the beginning that says: “Listen to me! I have something important to tell ya!” But, knowing what that grabber is will depend on your audience, so make sure you intimately understand their needs because they are the reason you are able to be a presenter.
- Know Your Angle
What is the purpose of your presentation? Is it to present something new and unique or something astonishing? Perhaps you would like to challenge a system or belief or identify a new way to look at something that isn’t all that new.
Knowing your angle will help you form your idea in a way that fully utilizes your personality and provides a lighthouse that can keep you on track.
- Provide a Call To Action
What do you want people to do immediately after hearing your idea? This is the ultimate reason you should be presenting. Perhaps you want them to connect with you to continue the conversation, or maybe you want them to think differently about something and begin acting on these new ideas. The call to action is one of the most important aspects of idea sharing. Knowing this is a crucial element to your success as a presenter.
- Practice. Practice, Practice!
Did I mention you need to practice? If you are going to use props, practice with the exact props over and over again because props can be dangerous and disastrous if you are not comfortable using them. Are you going to use a slide deck? Practice! Are you going to involve some sort of audience interaction? Practice! For everything you are planning, PRACTICE!
Of course, there are specificities that go along with this list that I teach at workshops, but if you can get these main concepts down and find your voice, you will find your stride in no time and will be able to help other budding presenters find their voices as well.