Expressing Yourself: Presenting Your Thoughts and Ideas

Employees have always had concerns about how work is done, as well as ideas for improvements. In the past, organizations have encouraged employees to wait until scheduled times (such as performance reviews or problem solving meetings) to express these concerns and ideas.

However, today organizations no longer have the luxury of waiting to hear what people have to say. Competition has become so fierce that organizations must be constantly alert for ways to improve. This means listening to employees and encouraging them to share their concerns, knowledge, and opinions with others throughout the organization.

In today’s competitive work environment, every voice counts. Employees need to understand the value of expressing themselves. They need to find opportunities to speak up about important issues in both formal and informal settings. In addition, they need to get their points across as effectively as possible.
Sometimes, expressing yourself comes naturally. Most people do not think twice about sharing concerns and ideas with a friend. Although when the stakes get high, expressing yourself can be extremely difficult.

No matter how much experience you have in presenting your ideas, you may find it hard to:
• Build up the courage to say what you think-especially if you are voicing a dissenting or unpopular opinion
• Determine what you want to accomplish
• Motivate people to listen to you and to act on what you say
• Talk to people whose backgrounds, perspectives, and assumptions are different from your own
• Provide the right amount of detail
• Stay focused on your topic; and
• Present your ideas clearly and in ways your listeners can easily understand

Whenever you speak, you should think about what your listeners stand to gain from hearing what you have to say. Do not simply expect people to listen; involve them in your message.

Think of yourself as partnering with your audience. Remember that you have something to tell them, and they have an interest in hearing it.

Choose what you want to say. This involves both the thoughts you express and the way you put them together. Your content must be well structured for people to follow your logic and understand your message.

The delivery is your style of presentation, or how you present the subject. Do you speak in a way that holds people’s attention? Do you maintain eye contact with them? Do your gestures reinforce what you are saying? Effective delivery strengthens your message. It also engages your listeners and helps them absorb what you are saying.

Some Tips:
1. Formulate your objective.

Before you speak, take time to think about what you want to accomplish. Put together a clear statement of what you want your audience to understand, think, or do because of your message. This objective statement will help focus your thoughts as you plan and deliver your message.

2. Capture interest.
Your opening remarks should let your listeners know why your message is important to them. Pointing to a benefit for them captures attention and reinforces the value of your message.

3. State your central point.
Listeners soon lose interest if you take too long getting to the core of your message. Letting them know your main idea at the beginning enables them to focus as you build your case or communicate information.

4. Offer supporting points.
Supporting points are the essence of your talk. They provide the information you want to get across and/or substantiate your conclusion. They must be clear and well structured so that your listeners can easily follow your logic.

5. Summarize and recommend action.
Ending with a quick summary that relates back to your central point enables your listeners to see how your ideas are connected and to understand their impact. Recommending action gives your listeners a focus for the future.

Controlling Your Nervousness
Nervousness Is Natural

Most people see nervousness as the biggest obstacle to speaking effectively. Nervousness occurs whenever you are under stress-it’s a natural, physiological response. When faced with a challenging situation, your nervous system produces adrenaline, which provides the extra energy you need to meet the challenge.

In other words, nervous energy is energy, which is one of the most important resources a speaker can have. Even the most accomplished speakers report being nervous while speaking. But once they learn to control nervousness, it is no longer a problem-turning instead into enthusiasm and excitement.

Getting your butterflies to fly in formation is the key. Below are some techniques to assist you in controlling your nervousness before and during your talks. The techniques that work best for you will depend on your own personal style. Try any that sound interesting. Practice using the techniques that help.

Put the spotlight where it belongs – Nervousness can get out of hand when you start thinking of yourself as being in the spotlight. (“There’s so much at stake.” “I’m not a good enough speaker to handle this.” “I don’t know enough about the topic.”) The more you focus on the fact that you are in a stressful situation, the more adrenaline your body will produce and the more nervous you will become. To break this cycle, change your focus. Instead of thinking about your own performance, focus on your listeners and what you want to tell them. Focus on making your speech valuable from their point of view.

Prepare – One of the best ways to feel in control of a situation is to know that you are thoroughly prepared for it. Take as much time as you can to prepare your message. Know what you want to accomplish. Find out about your listeners. Anticipate questions. Know your facts.

Practice – Effective, confident speakers have developed their skills through practice. You can do the same. Practice speaking in front of a mirror or with an audience of friends. Better yet, have someone videotape you while you are speaking. Then watch the videotape. (When people watch themselves objectively, they are frequently surprised by how confident they appear.)

Do not shy away from opportunities to speak-think of them as chances to sharpen your speaking skills. The more often you speak in front of groups, the better you will become at controlling your nervousness.

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