Getting back to an audience

We've spent so much time learning how to present and engage in an online world that we need to think about how our skills have transformed. Are the human abilities we haven't used in a while still able and ready to influence people?

Back to an audience

The alarm rang, two hours earlier than it has for the last year. Polly knew she had to take more time preparing for work today. 

After a year of perfecting presenting online, developing new skills to influence and create an impact virtually, Polly was about to head to her first face to face meeting. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she would be presenting from more than the waist up. She had to engage and enthral her audience in person. Polly felt anxious. She had never had the personality type to doubt herself and had always exceeded her targets, advancing in her career. Her passion for her work was evident to anyone that met her. But today, she didn't feel sure. What had happened to her this last year?

This is a story that many of us are going to start to feel in the coming months. We have all gotten through 'zoom fatigue' and started to become productive and comfortable in our video calls. 

We are about to put ourselves back in front of an audience. Not from behind a screen with only our top half on display, but directly back to presenting and meeting one another in person.

It is normal to be nervous, but we also need to take stock of what has happened this year. We spent so much time learning how to present and engage in an online world that we need to think about how our skills have transformed. Are the human abilities we haven't used in a while still able and ready to influence people?

Making sure you are ready to move

We are all in the business of selling; to sell is human. The people that do it best are the ones who can move their audience.

If you can make your listeners think, feel or do something on the back of what you say, you will have achieved a great response from your next meeting.

But what are the things you need to remember before you head back into your first meeting to avoid feeling anxious like Polly in our earlier story?

Find your voice

What you might have learned over the last year is that how you say things, when you say it and making sure the context is right are critical to delivering the right message and influencing your audience. We have all adapted our styles this year. Some of us have become much more casual, knowing that the children will run in the room or the dog will start barking at the very moment you need to be at your most focused.

You can use this. There's no need to bring your dog to your next face to face meeting, hoping for a bark to break the tension, but take the time to realise why your dog barking was never an issue on a video call. 

The context and environment were different; your audience faced the same problems as you, not knowing if their children would scream and they might have to run and leave. As you enter your first meetings, remember the human on the other side of the table. It could be their first meeting as well, and they might equally be feeling uncomfortable back in a suit after a year.

Be Prepared

Being prepared might sound like an obvious tip but take a moment and think of your recent online meetings. How easy has it been for you to minimise the video screen and pull up all of the information you needed to know in front of you?

You will now need to be prepared in a way you haven't had to be for over a year.

Focus on your delivery, and if you are anxious, practice giving your presentation with a colleague or a friend.

You will need to think carefully about who you are meeting and why you are there. If you are an authority on a topic, remember that the executives in front of you will need you to lead them to connect the right dots in the meeting.

Bring your vision

In video meetings, we have sometimes fallen into focusing on the immediate requirements. When we return to face to face meetings, remember that taking a strategic view is what will lead you to elevate yourself. Taking a broader view of the enterprise and even widening a focus beyond your role in a meeting will help you transform your time from useful to aspirational.

You will feel that the energy of the meeting will be greater than your video calls, and you will be clearer in showing how you can affect the decisions of everyone at the meeting.

Remember to stay calm, stop and breathe. Your first meeting might feel uncomfortable, and this is okay. Admit the personal challenge you are feeling in getting back to live presenting. You are not the only one!