Imagine working 6 months with your team on a project.

After 6 months, today is the big day! It’s the day of your presentation to the Board.

You have your deck of slides ready, you worked until 11pm the day before (you wanted to make sure that your slides have the best design and that you have an excellent wording). Now it’s your time to shine and you have 20 minutes to convince the board to invest in your project.

You go through the slides (of which you are really proud of) but after a couple of minutes you feel the interest and the attention of the room going down. You find yourself repeating several times the same information because your audience looks puzzled…

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Now you start thinking, what is wrong? Why are they not excited by your project? Why don’t they see how hard you and your team worked over the last 6 months?

Ultimately, the board’s decision comes: “We are sorry but this is not a priority. We can not approve your project”

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Actually, you are not even surprised based on the way your audience acted over the last 20 minutes.

This has to be frustrating, right?

And why? Not because of your work ethics or the quality of your work.

So why? This is simple but overlooked by many of us: your speech and yourself were not convincing enough. You underestimated the importance of public speaking skills to win the positive opinion of your board.

Why I wanted to improve my public speaking skills

I have experienced this in different occasions. In many situations, a finance professional may not articulate well the story behind the figures, no matter how fancy a spreadsheet looks.

This is why, I made one of my priorities to change that. And the change started last week with the help of Ursula Witthöft. She coached me during one day to improve my public speaking skills. It was the best training I had since more than 5 years.

This the reason why I strongly advise you to take a course on public speaking. I wish I would have done it before. But don’t take the advice from me, just see what Warren Buffet has to say:

“If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett told business students that public speaking is the most valuable skill they can learn.

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It’s one of the most underrated skills for professionals. Moreover, it’s rarely taught, neither in the professional world nor at school. But it brings you so much value!

10 things I learned about public speaking during my training:

To close this topic, I wanted to share with you, 10 things I learned about public speaking during my training:

 

  1. Public speaking can be learned by everyone.
  2. The way you look, stand, act and speak is responsible for more than 90% of how your audience perceives your message. Your content counts for less than 10%!
  3. Work on your handshake: put all the chances on your side to make that first good impression.
  4. Work on your posture, your eye contact and the way you walk to win the room (check online for exercise to improve posture)
  5. Activate your body to have a clear mind and all your body aligned (Ursula has a really good exercise called “The Nut” (Die Nuss in German) to activate the core body before a presentation)
  6. Work on your articulation and your tone (your speaking muscles need a bit of stretching and practice, but you see really quickly an improvement
  7. To speak louder, visualize yourself as if you were talking to somebody at the end of the room.
  8. Think about where you place your hands and how you stand (hands should be visible, open and you should be on your two feet)
  9. Imagine the audience being a group of friends and that you are going to tell them a story. You should speak in a natural way.
  10. Get excited about your topic: if you are not excited, who is going to create the excitement in your audience?

Last lesson learned (and for me the most important one): invest time to prepare your performance not just your slides. Don’t only rely on Powerpoint!!!

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