Recently, I received a message from the Hotellotop, asking me whether I wanted to speak during their event on the 10th of January. Even though I make a living from creating presentations, I became completely stressed out by the idea that I had to give a presentation in front of 800 people. Because, well, if you get asked to touch on your personal development as a Hotello during the presentation, it’s challenging – even for a ‘professional’ like me. With this blog, I would like to share some insights into my unique presentation journey and give you some tips on how to give a personal presentation, based on my own experience.
When I tell you that preparation is one of the success factors of a great presentation, I guess it doesn’t come as a surprise. Even so, nothing seems less true, even for me! When I started jotting down my story, this turned out to be, first and foremost, an incredibly emotional experience. I put everything down on paper while the tears ran down my cheeks and I can tell you: there is almost no better way to self-reflect. By structurally working out my own life story, I’ve immensely grown as a person and I was forced to revive one of my seasoned motto’s: ‘get comfortable with the uncomfortable’. It made me realise that, up until a few years ago, I used to cross my own boundaries and had the desire to keep learning. During my twenties, I did nothing else but create excitement in my life, while today, I am no die hard thrill seeker anymore. Still, there was nothing else I could answer than ‘yes’ when I was asked to give this presentation, despite the feeling of nausea that crept up on me every time it crossed my mind since.
It might surprise you that I, as a professional presentation designer, get stressed out whenever I have to take the stage myself. I admit, I prefer working behind the camera instead of in front of it. Nevertheless, I think it is necessary for me to take on this part sometimes. Because, what better way is there than helping others based on your own experience? When you undergo a challenge like this yourself – and trust me, it definitely was a challenge – you gain some new insights and remain sharp. That is what allows me to keep growing as an entrepreneur. It is very easy to take on an advisory role and judge people, but doing it yourself, that’s a whole different story. Gaining experience is essential, without a doubt. I always wanted to be good at presenting and, therefore, I faced this challenge once again. The presentation was pure and beautiful, but I’m being honest here: it could have been better. I didn’t get to tell the story the way I had planned out, I didn’t use half of the bridges that I thought of before. But that’s totally fine! Eventually, delivering your message in a clear fashion is the most important, even if things don’t go as planned. And that’s why a clear structure is indispensable.
The three key elements of a good presentation are ‘Content’, ‘Design’ & ‘Delivery’. When working on my story, I clung to this order. Creating a clear structure for a product presentation is way easier than for a personal presentation. Structuring a personal presentation demands a different way of thinking. Therefore, I have jotted down my story over a 100 times before it turned out the way I wanted. While doing this, I mostly learned to keep things small; a big, extensive story can be beautiful, but it can be distracting, too. Your story must be guiding, because, eventually, the goal is to deliver your message clearly. Creating bridges from one part of the story to another is therefore crucial to make your audience understand what part of the storyline you’re referring to. Theoretically, I’ve known this for a long time, but I had to experience it again to be able to do this in the right way.
It wasn’t until my content was final that I started on the design for my presentation. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the concept of a TopTalk made delivering my story quite hard: timing a personal story in such a way that you can share it based on 30 seconds per slide without losing the matching emotions is a huge challenge. The design is supposed to be supportive, otherwise it can cause distraction. Eventually, I spent 3 full days on creating and developing the visuals. Three hilarious days, that is! I have been dying of laughter during the creative process and I owe this presentation full of passion and creativity mostly to my strategic partner, BKN Productions. It cost a lot of time, but the result has been more than worth it!
Last but not least, the ‘Delivery’ element, which is the element which makes people stress – including myself – out the most. Not only working on my story, but also delivering it, has led to an emotional rollercoaster. This made me incredibly nervous, since telling a personal story to 800 people isn’t quite the same as presenting your research or a new product. Something I caught myself doing – and something that a lot of people struggle with during presentations – is breathing irregularly. The effect that nerves can have… This again proves that the way you breathe is essential when giving a presentation. Try to compare presenting with being a professional athlete. Lots of professional athletes breathe in deep a couple of times before they have to perform. It doesn’t only help them control their nerves, it helps their body to absorb more oxygen, too. This way, they get a boost of energy the moment the starting signal sounds. Therefore, focusing on your breathing will allow you to perform better and give a killer presentation! Once again: practice makes perfect, even for me…
What this unique experience has brought me? A lot, obviously! After giving this presentation, my ambition of innovating within the world of presentations has only grown. I want to abandon standard slides and work with video more to be able to support keynote speakers with innovating visuals. I do have to mention that it is important to take your time when it comes to these kind of challenges. Great work takes a lot of time, there is nothing you can change about that. But, great time management will eventually make sure that you can make an unforgettable impression as a speaker. Lastly, I would like to stress how much more respect I’ve gained for keynote speakers due to this experience. Presenting in front of a big group has made me see things completely differently and has made me realise that simply standing on that stage is an accomplishment in itself. There is nothing else left for me to do than thanking the Hotellotop for this unique, stressful and simultaneously amazing experience!
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