Perk up your presentation skills

By Mark G. Auerbach

I’ve spent a good part of my summer producing and hosting ArtsBeat Radio, a weekly program about regional arts on 89.5fm/WSKB, a community radio station. Since I’d taken an almost eight-year hiatus from doing radio regularly, I’d forgotten how much energy it takes to find my “radio voice” before each broadcast, and how that “radio voice” impacts my presentation skills.

So, rebuilding my presentation skills required practice, and all of my self-promotional and promotional materials including the “elevator speech” required an update. My mind has been on presentation on-and-off air. I come to self-confidence and presentation easily. I’m trained in theatre, so each time I stand up to talk about a client or my projects, and each time I lean into the microphone, I turn myself into a character of me and go into performance mode. It erases my fears and stage fright.  I just think, “At this performance, the role of Mark G. Auerbach will be played by Mark G. Auerbach.”

Many of the arts people I’ve spoken with have excellent presentation skills. They come from a world where every first encounter is essentially an audition. They work in a world where they create characters who are winners and heroes. There’s a certain amount of self-confidence and tough skin built when you perform before an audience every day.

I knew I’d taken my theatre and media skills and used them in my every day work as a small business owner who produces public relations and marketing. I wasn’t quite sure how it actually connected.

Travis G. Daly, one of the Berkshire Theatre Group’s directors who works with community productions, put things in perspective for me. Daly works with kids, teens, and adults, some of whom may pursue theatre in college or professionally. Others will participate in community theatre shows or attend and support theatre. “Theatre develops life skills”, says Daly. “You learn to work in a group, and you learn how to be a part of a group. Theatre requires taking positive risk, especially the audition process.”

Condoleezza Rice, diplomat and former Secretary of State, is a trained concert pianist, and she used to perform in small chamber groups, because she said it helped to de-stress her and focus her mind.

Many theatre programs at area colleges and theatres offer workshops in presentation skills, and coaching for those who need it. Other organizations, from colleges to chambers of commerce, offer training online and in person. Sometimes, these courses are called “Public Speaking;” sometimes they’re referred to as “Oral Interpretation.”

If you’ve taken piano lessons, played in a school ensemble, done a school play, been on the debate squad, or modeled clothes for high school fashion shows, you’ve acquired presentation skills. Think back to what made those activities successful for you, and apply it to your skill set.

If you need to improve your presentation skills, read on; these resources may be helpful.

Larry Kim’s article for Inc.  9 Places to Learn Public Speaking Skills for Free.

Effective Presentations, group that presents open enrollment workshops and virtual training nationally.

Dale Carnegie, the national training company that offers public speaking courses nationally.

Toastmasters, another national organization.

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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