WITH sufficient practice and proper preparation, anyone can successfully deliver a public presentation no matter who or how large the audience is, said management and development trainer Sally Goh.
Speaking to the HSBC Young IT Entrepreneur Awards (YITEA) finalists recently, she revealed that public speaking is among the greatest fears of people – some regard it as a “fate worse than death”.
“People are wary of public speaking for many reasons such as the fear of appearing foolish, lack of confidence about their language skills or knowledge and so on.
“It is quite normal to be nervous about speaking in public. Even seasoned speakers and actors get nervous before going on stage. However, rather than trying to eliminate this stage fright altogether, you can transform it from a negative force into what experts call ‘positive nervousness’. This means you may still feel nervous but at least you know you are in control.
“Don’t worry though because by the end of this workshop, you should be able to manage yourself, your presentation and your audience effectively,” she said at the half-day Presentation Skills Workshop for the finalists at HSBC Bank Malaysia’s training office recently.
The six teams that made it to the final round of YITEA were invited to attend the workshop, their final preparation before they present their business plan to a panel of five judges, led by the bank’s executive director and deputy chief executive John Coverdale, who will act as a panel of potential investors.
Unlike previous years, where the finalists comprised mainly teams from private universities and colleges that focused on IT-based programmes, the majority of this year’s finalists are from public universities. They are: team Radiant Biotech from Universiti Malaya (UM); team TNB Allied, also from UM; team A-Team from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia; team Mobility from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman; team Dominions from Inti College Malaysia and team DTK from Help University College.
The three key areas teams have to master to make an excellent presentation, said Goh, are attitude, skills and knowledge.
“These are very important and once you have them under control, the floor is yours. You must have a positive attitude because if you think you can do it, you usually can. Public speaking skills, on the other hand, can be acquired through practise – like any other skill.”
She added that the knack for public speaking comes through trial and error. So, the more speeches one gives, the better one becomes. Goh urged participants to practise in front of their friends and teammates, and use them as the audience.
“Knowledge about your topic as well as the do's and don’ts of public speaking is also important and you can get most of what you need from this session,” Goh said, a trainer with HSBC.
Apart from giving them tips on how to make a good presentation, Goh also got the teams to do small presentations on a topic of their choice and video-taped it to allow them to see the common mistakes made.
“Take it from me, there is nothing like seeing yourself on tape. You may think you are the picture of perfection when you speak and not be aware of certain habits that are annoying or distracting. But, if you see yourself, you will immediately pick them up and then you can correct yourself,” she said.
Personal appearance, she added, was also very important in creating a good impression with the audience, or in their case, the judges.
“You may have the best business plan or the most interesting presentation but if you look like you just got out of bed, you will loose a few points and these points could determine whether or not you win,” said Goh.
The YITEA was initiated by HSBC in Hong Kong in 2000 and introduced in Malaysia a year later. The Star is the media partner of the competition, which aims to nurture young entrepreneurs.
This final round, to be held on March 28, will determine the gold, silver and bronze winners of the competition.
The winning team will take home RM10,000, compete in the regional competition in Hong Kong and also go on a winners’ tour of Seattle in the United States. Silver and bronze winners will take home RM7,000 and RM5,000 respectively as well as attend the regional competition in Hong Kong.
Although some of the finalists are not public speaking novices, they all found the workshop helpful because of the tips and theopportunity to get to know each other.
“I have had some experience in public speaking but this workshop was like a refresher. I also learnt some new points on public speaking which I hope will help me at the finals,” said Alex Siow Sian Yong of the A-Team.
The final presentation will be held at the Renaissance Hotel in Kuala Lumpur where teams will get 15 minutes for their presentation and five minutes to field questions from the judges.
The winners of the competition will be announced on the night of the presentation.