There is nothing worse (in my opinion) than leading a meeting or giving a presentation acting like you think you should versus acting in a way that feels relaxed and natural. And yet so often when people are asked to lead meetings or give presentation they tense up.
What does it take to look natural?
Last fall I took an 8 week stand up comedy class at ImprovBoston in Central Square Cambridge, MA. Each week 6 of us, all new to stand up, got together to learn how to write jokes, write jokes, and get feedback on our jokes. And sometimes those jokes weren’t funny at all.
The class was both a challenge and a blast. It challenged me to let go of certain “presentation” beliefs like logic, transitions and flow. A blast because it was so freeing to let loose in that way.
The class ended with a student showcase. The six of us each had up to 5 minutes to share material and make people laugh. And by people I mean a sold out crowd of 50 of our closest family and friends.
My sister, Alicia, was kind enough to capture my set on video. When I shared it on Facebook, some commented on how natural I looked, despite being new to comedy.
I took these comments to heart. In my work as a communication consultant I believe in and promote “speaking naturally” to create stronger connections with others. This includes the words we use, the tone we take, the movements we make.
In fact, “What feels natural?” is a question I ask all of my clients when practicing their communication and presentation skills.
Here is what you need to know to “speak more naturally” in a business setting.
Natural is Practiced
For example, in comedy class I…
- Told the same jokes, week after week, in a variety of ways, before they felt natural to tell.
- Tried different body movements and voice tones to figure out what worked to get a laugh.
- Had to let go of any beliefs I had about speaking and performing and “let loose” in order to get the desired result – laughter.
The same is true when we talk to clients or present to groups.
To feel more natural speaking in a business setting, consider the following:
Practice. Lots of folks don’t like the idea of repeating the same information over and over again. However, to get comfortable with content, voice tone and body movements, practice is a must. Are you willing to make the time and be repetitive?
Find the courage to challenge the status quo. Clients often tell me, “This is how we do it in my company.” I get it. And that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for YOU. If using PowerPoint doesn’t feel natural, figure out a different visual that does. If sitting makes you feel stiff, stand up. Are you willing to challenge the status quo so you can bring your best self to every interaction?
Be grounded in who YOU are. There is nothing worse than showing up for a meeting or presentation acting like you should instead of who you are. My favorite quote is Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. – Chinese Proverb. Are you naturally funny? Analytical? A storyteller? Physically expressive? Allow that part of you to shine during verbal interactions. You’ll stand out, be remembered, and feel more natural. Who are you and how you can let that part of you shine?
When talking to friends and family “speaking naturally” is something we do right off the bat. But when it comes to business presentations feeling natural comes with practice. It’s definitely worth the effort.
Your turn to talk to me
- Have you ever taken or thought about taking a stand up comedy class?
- Are you a funny person by nature?
- How can you be more natural during business conversations or presentations?
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Want to speak more naturally during your business meetings? Check out the half day public speaking and communication skills half day workshop Speak with Confidence. Learn more.