Presenting Tips for the Anxious Innovator

The opportunity to teach is a chance to influence others. Here’s some tips and tricks to make that moment better.

Today we share some recent tips included in the latest Censemaking Innovation Newsletter on a big topic: presenting. Presentations are not just about informing people, they are a gift: a chance to teach others and inspire them. These powerful moments are when the attention is on us and our influence might be greatest so getting it right matters.

Thankfully, there are some great resources to help us out.

Engaging Presentations

Ever find yourself presenting to an audience that isn’t engaged? Whether it’s the topic or the fact they served lasagna right before your keynote (this actually happened to me) your audience might drift. Super instructor Sheila Robinson and dataviz maven Stephanie Evergreen have combined their wisdom and talents to prepare a short guide on how to (re-)engage and energize your audience. 

Turn and talk, pairing and sharing and more, these strategies will fill your audience more than any pasta lunch. (For a second helping, check out Sheila’s library of presentation guides) .

Dorie Clark has a great article in the Harvard Business Review on strategies to address drift and address the problem of losing momentum during a presentation. It’s a great complement to the resources listed above.

Why bother? Whether it’s knowledge translation work or marketing, our ability to make change happens when we can influence people. Attention is scarce and hard to corral. You have people right in front of you during a presentation and the opportunities to connect them are never greater. It’s worth getting good at this.

Overcoming fear, generously

One of the biggest barriers to presenting or teaching is the fear of public speaking. One of the reasons we get so worried is that we think too much about ourselves – our heart rate, worry about reputation, fear of ‘screwing up’ and more. New research suggests that changing our orientation away from us and to what we can give our audience actually calms the brain and reduces performance anxiety.

What’s this all about? Whether it’s presenting or even just sharing something in a group, thinking more about what you give and less about who is giving it also makes you more trustworthy. People don’t want to be ‘sold’ something, they want to have something shared with them. A generosity-orientation is good for your audience and its great for your mental health.

I hope these tips and tools help make your next presentation more impactful and the stress on you much lower.

Happy innovating!

Cameron D. Norman

I am a designer, psychologist, educator, evaluator, and strategist focused on innovation in human systems. I'm curious about the world around me and use my role as Principal and President of Cense Ltd. as a means of channeling that curiosity into ideas, questions, and projects that contribute to a better world.

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