Updated: Dec 6, 2019
How do you feel about giving presentations? If you are like most people, you dread it. And if you don’t like giving speeches in your native language, my guess is that you certainly don’t like giving them in English.
That’s completely normal. I remember when I was in college, and I had to give a simple presentation in German about going grocery shopping. I completely choked (couldn’t speak) and received a low grade on the assignment. This led to my getting a B in the class, which led to my losing a part of my academic scholarship. So, you can imagine the feelings I have around giving speeches in a foreign language!
Giving Presentations is an Important Skill
No matter how you feel about presentations, knowing how to effectively deliver information to groups is an important part of the language learning journey, especially if you are a business professional. You might not have to give a Ted Talk in English (or maybe you do or aspire to), but there will be times when you need to share information with others in a formal and structured way.
For example, maybe you need to present information to a client or update your boss on a new system or idea. Perhaps you are having a discussion with people in your group or department, and you need to offer your opinion. Or, maybe you need to introduce yourself at a Meetup event. Public speaking can come in many forms.
I’ll be honest; I still get quite nervous when speaking in front of others despite the fact that I have been involved in public speaking activities since high school. But I have learned that you can channel that nervous energy into something powerful. You can embody the best version of yourself and deliver a presentation or speech that is authentic and effective, and here's one easy trick.
Creating an Avatar
In January I had the opportunity to work with several members of a local temple here in Houston on building confidence in public speaking. I used one of my favorite activities. It’s from the book Speak Like Yourself, by Jezra Kaye.
Jezra Kaye, the President of Speak Up for Success, invites readers to create an avatar of themselves. What’s an avatar? Think of the character you choose to represent you when you play a video game or the cute picture you use to represent yourself on social media.
Jezra describes it this way:
“...this Avatar really is you—but it’s “you” as you want to be seen by others. “You” in a powerful, more concentrated form.”
That is to say, your avatar is your most powerful version of yourself. For example, when I give presentations, I feel anxious. But that is not how I choose to appear. Instead, I consider how I want to show up, and I tap into the energy of my avatar. My avatar is charismatic, brave, and inspiring. She is the best version of me. Her name is Sensational Stephanie. And she looks like this:
Do you get the idea? So, write down three traits that are awesome about you. Please don’t be humble. Now, create a name for yourself—something strong and brave. This is your avatar. If you have time, draw a symbol of picture of your avatar, or download a fun app like Bitmoji to do it for you.
Try it for yourself. Create a short 3-point presentation in English on something simple, like your favorite hobby or passion. The format can look something like this:
Introduction: What led you to this hobby? How did you discover it or start it?
Body (Main points): Give three reasons why you enjoy it, including examples.
Conclusion: Summarize your main points briefly.
Before you give your presentation in English (or even in your native language), remember your avatar.
How would she deliver this information?
How would she stand?
What body language would she use?
How would she behave?
Now, go for it. Give your presentation, even if it is only for you. You can record yourself on your phone to get a better idea of how you appear. Afterwards, give yourself some feedback. Did you see evidence of your avatar? What did you like about your performance? What was hard for you? What would you do differently next time?
Your best self already exists within you. Jezra Kaye’s avatar activity is simply a tool to help you remember that. Now, of course there are strategies you can use to become a better presenter. You can always learn those skills. But, like everything, it all starts in your mind.