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Well not just a Left brainer anyway! But more about that in a minute!

The important issue here is what research has found out - that for the majority of us, the most stressful things in life are

  1. Bereavement
  2. Divorce
  3. Moving house……….and guess what? - yes, you’re right -
  4. Presenting!!

Most people in fact say they would rather have teeth pulled without anaesthetic than have to present! And if you’re someone who agrees with that; if some of your most horrendous experiences have been having to do a Presentation, ‘dying’ on your feet while doing a Presentation: or even the panic and sleepless nights, sweaty palms and nausea in anticipation of having to do one, then help is at last at hand here!

Ever since mankind realised that what happens in the outside world has to have started in someone’s head first, we have been trying to figure out what our brains, our minds, are all about………how they work, which parts do what, and therefore how can we choose the right bits for the job, whatever that may be!

I’m actually one of the lucky ones who never had any of those negative responses to presenting - which is strange really, because I was such an introverted, internal kid, or as my mum used to say, “painfully shy”.

And yet for most of my adult professional life I’ve been Presenting in one form or another………in Seminars, conferences, trainings, theatre, on TV., and, my favourite, on radio for the BBC.

And I realise that what I’ve been doing all the time is actually what I’m going to share now with you, though I wasn’t consciously aware then of what I was doing.

I made damned sure that I really knew my subject, was always really well prepared with all the conscious information I’d need; I learned it all, and practiced it over and over; and then I did it. My special secret was to imagine that I was talking to just one or two people ‘out there’, and they were there because they really wanted to hear what I was going to say, and even more, how I was going to say it!

My voice has always been one of my strengths - a good voice can help get even the most difficult material across painlessly. The other secret was that I treated every Presentation as a conversation with friends - and I actually enjoyed being able to share something with them!

The third, and probably the most important thing looking back, is that I trusted that I knew what I knew!

For me, Presenting was and is like playing Jazz………you can improvise, go with the flow, follow tangential thoughts, and still come back to where you should be if you have a really solid knowledge base underpinning everything.

I suppose what I was always doing, though not knowing I did, was making sure my conscious mind had all the information I needed, so that my unconscious mind could flow, trusting it had everything it needed…… that I knew what I knew!

It’s a bit like that famous Presenter, who travelled all over the world, presenting at huge conferences etc. He arrived at the 5 star hotel where he was booked to speak to 2000 delegates, having flown across the Atlantic to get there; he walked onstage to applause, and said his first words

“Thank you for that great welcome. I’m delighted to be here - and I just wish my luggage had made the trip with me!” The audience gasped, and laughed - it certainly was a hell of an effective way to get them into a sympathetic emotional state! He continued

“So, not only don’t I have a change of clothes here with me, I don’t have any of my slides either. So I apologise for what you can see - my crumpled suit, and also for what you can’t - my slides” By this time they were completely on his side, and expectant to discover what he’d do……..and what he did for the next hour and a half, was what he and others later described as one of the best presentations he had ever done!

Because what he had done was “play Jazz”……….he improvised on a sound and profound knowledge base, trusting that he knew what he knew!

And if we “use our heads”, “set our minds” to something - isn’t language just brilliant at describing what we need to do!? - then whatever we do will also be brilliant.

What great Presenters like him do is based on the discovery that the left side of the brain is all about logic, reasoning, and conscious tasks - research for example, whereas the right side of the brain is about creativity, intuition, and unconscious ‘flow’.

So to do anything to the optimum level, doesn’t it make sense to use whatever ‘tools’ we have, so as to give us the edge? And specially in this day and age, when so many are competing for everything. Whatever you’re selling - a product, a service, ideas – it’s all about selling you!

That’s what Presenting is, however we dress it up….! Consider the three ‘bottom line’ factors involved in Presenting:-

  • The audience
  • The information
  • The Presenter

And the other bottom line fact is that the Information exists and is available from other sources! Which means therefore that the Audience could have chosen to go elsewhere to get that information, right? So what is the variable factor going on? Why are they sitting there, waiting for your Presentation to start?

Pretty obviously the difference that makes the difference is that third factor - the Presenter…….. YOU!

Many people have come to me for coaching on Presenting, and so many of them say they have no confidence. I remember one guy in particular, who said he had no confidence, so how could he present?

“Are you sure you have no confidence?” I asked him.


“Are you absolutely confident that you have no confidence?”

“Yes, of course I am, or I wouldn’t have come to see you!”

Then I asked him what made him confident about having no confidence, and he came up with a whole lot of examples, information, about it.

“So you do have confidence that you’re not confident……you just need to transfer that to Presenting, right?”

“Right!” he agreed.

In other words, once his unconscious mind knew it could rely on his conscious mind having all the information it needed to do something, it could easily get on and do it. Confidence is like having a security blanket of knowledge to fall back on!

And that’s the most important thing to remember when Presenting - yes, of course they’ve come for the information; but they want to hear and see your take on it, your interpretation of what it is and its importance and relevance to them.

So how can you be confident and give them what they want, and more? How can you be the best you, to fulfil, and go beyond, that basic expectation?

It’s more than a matter of common sense, it’s actually about common senses! Because we all process information with our senses - Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic - and each person you’re presenting to has a preference for one of these over and above the others - as a brilliant Presenter you make sure you include all of these senses in your Presentation, so that every person in your audience can receive the information in the way they can personally best process it!

And that means having the best Visuals being projected; using your body to reinforce your content, rather than contradicting it….remember that research they did showing that if trust between people is about our words voice and body, only 7% is about the words! If our voice and body aren’t aligned with our words, then those words will not be believed!

So now let’s think about those words…………not just about what you’re going to say, but how you’re going to say it. Yes, your voice is the medium for your words, so if you want your audience to take them on board, make your voice attractive to listen to! If necessary, take voice classes, or study your favourite presenters/actors/actresses, how they modulate their voices, using light and shade, different tempos, volumes, to enhance what they’re saying.

The most mind-blowing information will not get across if a droning monotonous voice has already bored your audience to sleep!

Which brings us to another hugely important issue - there’s no point giving information unless your audience is not just awake, but in the right emotional state to receive it - and you are in the right emotional state to deliver it!

So the very first thing to do at the beginning of your Presentation is to find something that is a feel-good shared experience they can all identify with…maybe mention something like a sporting success that’s been in the news, and link that feeling to what you’re about to share with them.

Or get them into a state of curiousity by teasing them a little about what they’re going to be getting from you!

Humour, of course, is another fantastic way to put your audience and yourself into an optimum emotional state.

It’s also a great idea to study comedians anyway, because the timing of their delivery is another vital key to your own Presenting success.

I’m not saying you should copy them, mimic them, so much as model how they do what they do - and then make it your own. Back to that basic again…….your audience is there to see and hear you - but you as the best you can be. So though this may sound contradictory, learn how your models of excellence do what they do, and then be different! Add what you’ve modelled from those you admire to what you do yourself, and you’ll be unique!

I’ve talked a lot about studying certain things, which brings us back now to the Right brain and the Left brain, and how we need to use both - in balance - to achieve Presenting success.

When you’ve got a Presentation coming up, first do your Left brain stuff:-

Go through everything you already know about the subject….and that’s probably quite a lot, or you wouldn’t have been asked in the first place!

Next, decide what further information you need, and research it…Google is brilliant for this.

Plan your draft running order, and time it.

Then give it all to your Unconscious mind to assimilate and go and do something else! Literally ‘take your mind off it!’ This will allow the brilliant creative Right brain part of you to come up with the extra elements that make your Presentation special, and uniquely yours……the stories that are great illustrations of various points you’re making; the humour that lightens what can sometimes be heavy information: because changing the mood of your audience by making them laugh changes their emotions towards you, and to what you’re presenting.

Listen to the greatest presenters - they tell stories, they use humour - maybe not telling jokes as such, but in humorous ‘asides’. As I mentioned before, let your Left brain study a comedian like Billy Connolly, who’s doing both these things together……….he’s telling stories that are from his own life, making us laugh, apparently casually ‘rambling’ from one unfinished story to another, ‘til his audience are almost in a trance of intrigued enjoyment - then he pops in a punchline, the ‘message’, which goes straight to the audiences’ unconscious minds to be processed - and then he goes back and finishes all those stories.

So the conscious minds of his audience, which can sometimes become resistant if addressed directly, have been ‘disarmed’…..they were just hearing stories about other people, not about themselves, weren’t they?!.......and their unconscious minds have taken it all in!

As I said, when you know how brilliant Presenting works, it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?! Oh, and of course a Left brainer and a Right brainer!!

Now let’s look at the next steps, having done all your conscious Left brain research and preparation…….this is now where the Right brain comes into its own.

This is your creativity, which has already been at work when you were distracting your conscious mind by doing something else: and your intuition, your gut instincts, which will now “bring to mind” appropriate stories to include, sudden little memories that are amazingly apposite, etc. And most important of all, it’s your unconscious Right brain that is what you’ll now trust to deliver the Presentation!

So……Left brain is research, and rehearse, and refine.. Right brain is “in the flow”, “in the zone” delivery of the Presentation.

We need both, and we need to let them each do what they’re designed to do best. And then - we have to trust them to get on with it!

Most especially when it comes to the unconscious Right brain, because we are obviously, by definition, not consciously aware of what the unconscious is doing, we just have to believe and trust it is doing its thing, and go with it!

Now let’s quickly recap:-

  • Your audience wants you first, then information.
  • Get them, and yourself, into the optimum emotional state before anything else.
  • We have a conscious, Left brain, mind, and an unconscious, Right brain, mind….and Presenting brilliantly needs us to use both for what they’re each best at
  • Treat your Presentation like playing Jazz - trust yourself to go with the flow knowing you’re doing it on a solid knowledge base.
  • Confidence is knowing it - and then doing it!
  • Use your Left brain for research, and practice - model great Presenters/performers/comedians: if necessary take voice lessons: get all your information together, including any visual slides etc. Put it into a running order, practice how your body looks, how your voice sounds, by rehearsing in front of a friend or a mirror, until you know it inside out.
  • Use your Right brain to remind you of stories, anecdotes, humour, that will raise your Presentation to new levels. Now include these into your running order where appropriate, and use Left and Right brain to practice again.
  • Once you’ve rehearsed, and refined, your Presentation, make a short list of key words or phrases to refer to if necessary during your Presentation.
  • And finally, and most important of all… you know what you know!!

A great example of what I mean by trusting your Right brain, is what happened when my best friend’s two sons went to do their written driving tests a few years ago. The older son studied the Highway code and so on, then got to the test centre and went through the questions, answered them flowingly (this was using his Right brain)………….then when he’d finished, his left brain started having doubts, so he went back over them, and changed some of the answers.

And guess what…..the ones he changed were the ones he got wrong!

Whereas his younger brother studied the Highway code etc really hard, and then when he went and took the test he flowingly answered all the questions - and then got up and left! He didn’t go back over anything, because he trusted that he knew what he knew, and that his Right brain would come up with it when he needed it - so it did. And yes, he got all the answers right!

  • Use stories etc, just as I did there, to illustrate a point, and to relax the audiences’ Left brains so they don’t get in the way of their Right brains “getting” your Presentation…….!
  • Go do it….and enjoy!

Dee Shipman 2012.



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