Be Perceived As the Expert When You Give a Presentation.
One of the fundamental steps in improving your presentations is to realize that you are the expert. Regardless of what industry you are in or what background you have, you first have to realize that you are the expert at that thing. The knowledge that you have is valuable to others. When you understand this, your presentations, and really your communication in general, will improve dramatically.
Public speaking fear and self-consciousness will sometimes come from not understanding this basic truth. Our internal monologue may be saying something like, "Why would anyone care what I have to say?" or "There are so many other people who know more about this than I do." If that were actually true, then THEY would be the ones speaking in the presentation.
You Are the Undisputed Expert. You Just May Not Realize It.
When I was 14 years old, my dad owned a home remodeling company. Every winter, I crawled under houses helping him repair frozen pipes that had burst. After a couple of Christmas breaks, I had so much experience doing this, that I could do it in my sleep. So as a teenager, I was an expert at repairing ruptured PVC pipes.
A few years later, I worked at a fast-food place when I was in High School. I started out on the "board" which is where the sandwiches were assembled. My boss showed me a few things, but it was my coworker, who had only been there a few weeks longer than I had, who showed me the ropes. That coworker was an undisputed expert on the process -- that is, at least compared to me.
After I graduated from college, my first real job was working for an oil company doing title work. After a couple of years, I had not only gotten pretty good at it, but I had also trained a number of new people. Compared to them, I was the expert at this process.
In my third year in the training industry, I generated a half-million dollars worth of sales for the first time. That same year, I also received a couple of awards for outstanding instruction. It took me five years as an entrepreneur to attain my first million dollars, but it only took about eight more months to generate my second million.
With each of these accomplishments, I became the expert, because I had information that the general public didn’t have (even when my expertise was repairing frozen pipes).
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Your Knowledge. Your Experience Has Made You the Expert.
One of my friends in college was going to school to be an elementary school teacher. She absolutely hated math. However, once she graduated, she found out that in the State of Texas, Math and Science teaches got paid more than other teachers. (Teachers with this expertise were in high demand at the time.)
To get the higher pay, she decided to be a fourth-grade math teacher. Those of us who knew her pretty well were laughing when we asked her about her career choice. For the three or four years that we had known her, she complained over and over about the math, algebra, and trigonometry classes that she had to take in school. These classes were her nemesis. After a little teasing from us, she replied by saying, “In order to teach fourth-grade math, I just have to be an expert at fifth-grade math.”
When I heard her say this, it became one of those prophetic life lessons for me. In order to be an expert at something, you just need to have a little more knowledge than your audience.
For instance, let’s say that you are a restaurant manager who turned around a struggling location. How many other managers are there in the world who would want to hear how you did it? You’d be the expert at restaurant turnarounds (especially if you were able to do it a second or third time). Or, if you are a dentist who is really good at getting your patients to show up for every sixth-month check-up, then other dentists would pay dearly to figure out how you do it. Whatever you do on a day-to-day basis makes you the expert at that activity.
What Is Common to You Is Uncommon to Most People.
I'm a fan of reality TV about entrepreneurs. I can sometimes get hooked into watching three-straight-hours of Shark Tank or Bar Rescue. It is fun to see how business owners who are having challenges can be helped just be a little advice from an expert. This concept is what makes the "rags to riches" stories so popular because anyone can succeed.
One of the popular genres of reality TV is house-flipping. This type of show is also a fantastic example of how expertise can be repackaged into a different form. In 2008, the real estate market crashed. A lot of people made a ton of money flipping houses from 2008 to 2013. They were buying houses at bargain-basement prices, holding onto them for a short time, and then reselling them at a huge profit as the market prices went up.
In that first couple of years, you didn't have to have a lot of skill doing this, by the way. (I made money in real estate during that time.) The housing market had such a steep decline in housing prices and then a long and steady incline. As the housing prices started to stabilize, though, only the more skilled investors made profits.
So when the house-flipping industry became more challenging, many of these entrepreneurs began to sell their expertise. They created reality TV shows and seminars about how to... wait for it... make money flipping houses.
Now keep in mind that many of these folks are scoundrels. But the point is that once you have built some success, the knowledge that you acquired to get there is valuable to others.
Because You Are the Expert, You Have Credibility in the Marketplace.
Years ago, I got a contract to teach presentation skills and leadership for members of the Associated General Contractors. After teaching classes for the association for a couple of years, the participants began to think of me as being an expert in the commercial construction industry. Keep in mind that I had never once built a big skyscraper. In fact, I knew very little about the day to day operations of general contractors. However, because I had worked with so many general contractors in that first couple of years, I had more expertise in the industry than other leadership and presentation coaches. I had developed a specialty.
One of these clients hired me to coach a team who were preparing for what he called a “shortlist” presentation. This was a presentation where a “shortlist” of qualified vendors were competing for a really big contract. Each potential vendor got to present to a committee to show the buyers why their company should be awarded the contract.
Everyone in that room knew more about building skyscrapers than I did. However, I knew way more about designing and delivering presentations than any of them did. So, with my coaching, they were able to borrow my expertise to deliver their presentation in a much more fluid and effective way.
After doing this kind of training a few times, I had some pretty remarkable successes. As a result, I quickly became known as the “shortlist” presentation coach. I had developed a brand new expertise.
A Lot of Presentation Confidence Comes from Your Perception of Yourself.
The point is that if you see yourself as inferior to the people you are presenting to, you will be nervous. If you see yourself as the expert, though, you will be poised and confident. The only difference between these two types of presenters is their perception of themselves.