By Mitadru Dey
A 20-seater conference room in a Manhattan Skyscraper overlooking the Hudson River. It’s time for me to present a report to the senior clients in a weekly meeting for the very first time. According to several studies, people fear public speaking more than death. I learned it first-hand during 3 minutes of my presentation.
Growing up in a suburb in India, I did not have the opportunity to study English until graduation from high school. I had my share of struggles, especially speaking up during meetings when I started working for a US Bank. At times I could not understand the western accent and then could not articulate thoughts during conference calls because I was nervous. My career started much before the days when videoconferencing was normal. As long as I was in India, I could hide my uncomfortable body language behind the audio phone and convey my message.
When I moved to New York eight years ago, I dreaded weekly presentations to senior clients. It was extremely intimidating, and the results robbed me of my remaining confidence. My manager observed my communication agony several times and called for a meeting to share his feedback with me. He advised me to take on a few courses, and in the end, he recommended, “Why don’t you try Toastmasters”? That was the first time I heard “toast” and “master” together.
Several thoughts ran into my mind. Does he want me to learn how to roast? Those anxious thoughts ended as soon as I typed “Toastmaster” on Google. It’s a non-profit global public speaking club helping people like me become confident communicators. Without delay, I joined the Toastmaster club at the United Nations.
The club had several senior members who, along with a great communicator, are very humble and always encourage new members to speak up. I had completed my first speech within a month. I read out the speech without looking around the audience. Still, there was thunderous applause at the end. That shot my motivation through the roof, and I continued to invest in learning how to be a better communicator.
Those visible sweats soon became invisible at work meetings as I had a newfound confidence. I started applying techniques learned in Toastmasters in corporate presentations. Here are 4 Ps designed to transform you as a confident presenter in your next critical meeting.
Stanford business school lecturer and communication expert Matt Abrahams shares a simple yet powerful format to present ideas.
What: What is the headline of your message? Write down your message in one or two sentences.
So What: Why your message is important. Will it increase revenue or decrease cost? Will it improve employee engagement?
Now What: Outline the next steps such as getting buy-in from management, scheduling a follow-up for a deep dive session, etc.
Write down your message and record it when reading it aloud. Every smartphone these days has the feature to record; use it smartly. While recording, ensure there is no external noise.
Listen to the recording and note down where you are not articulating appropriately. Edit your script accordingly.
Muster the courage to share the last recording with your 2 coworkers who would provide you authentic feedback. Incorporate that in your script.
My association with the Toastmasters club helped me to come up with this technique. This is the best time to join Toastmasters as you are not restricted by your location; thanks to virtual meetings. I highly recommended finding the Toastmasters club of your preference by clicking this link and starting the journey of a great presenter.
I am happy to connect with you if you want to share the result of applying the 4Ps technique and/or to know more about Toastmasters. Here is a toast to your journey as a successful communicator!
Mitadru is a pro bono career coach who helps early to mid-career professionals (typically with less than 10 years of work experience) achieve their professional goals. He is a tenured Vice President in a top global financial services institution with 16 years of experience managing people and guiding them to success.
He has authored many articles on professional development, few of which have been published on various websites globally. He has also featured on podcasts across US, India, and UK to talk about career management in today’s world.
To access his guidance, connect with him on LinkedIn.
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