I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role and importance of marketing operations within the marketing department. My article last month, “CMO: Your Marketing Operations Team is a Secret Weapon,” clearly struck a chord. Thanks to everyone who commented, contacted and shared the article. Your comments have sparked interesting and ongoing conversations.
Why presentation is a marketing requirement
One of those ongoing conversations focused on the skills required in marketing operations and in particular soft skills. A recent LinkedIn post about BDO Digital’s David Lewis in Marketing for a Marketing Career caught my attention, in part because I had just had a conversation with a marketing professor at a prestigious university who wasn’t. absolutely unaware of the role that technology plays in marketing. . The post and its over 200 comments made for a great read, but the one recommendation that jumped out at me was, “Take a acting class and learn to give presentations and tell stories. ”
The ability to present well is extremely important in today’s environment – it is the only way to communicate big ideas and strategy. Some might suggest that you can write down and share your ideas as an alternative, to which I would respond: how many times has it become clear that the recipient of one of your emails a) only scanned it, b) n ‘read the first paragraph, c) didn’t look at your attachment, or d) never read it at all?
Like it or not, we need to be good oral communicators. It’s just the baseline. In our noisy world, having a public figure is really helpful for career growth. Part of developing a public personality is speaking through webinars, lectures, and podcasts. So easy, right? Speak well and often, internally and in public.
It turns out it’s not that easy.
Glossophobia is common, but surmountable
Last week I was talking about it with Frans Riemersma from MarTech Tribe. He asked me if I thought the majority of marketing operations professionals were introverts and if so, do I think presenting internally and speaking in public was a challenge for this community? I feel like yes, we are a community of mostly introverts, so speaking in public is not easy. But I’m less sure about the introverted connection – public speaking. It is possible to be introverted and to be comfortable speaking in public, I have first hand knowledge of that. However, fear of public speaking is incredibly common and depending on where you look affects 40% to 75% of the population. It even has a name, Glossophobia. Since telling marketers to speak out, to present and to speak publicly will only generate anxiety for a large portion of our marketing operations community.
I am an introvert and comfortable speaking in public. In fact, my co-founder often says that I’ve never seen a microphone that I didn’t want to speak into.
It hasn’t always been that way. In high school, I wrote a 10-page article to avoid a five-minute oral presentation. I even refused to be the major of my class because it meant giving a public presentation. During my last year of college, my professor who was on the board of directors of the Virginia Psychological Association asked me to consider presenting my senior project on self-hypnosis at their annual meeting, at the alongside others who presented their master’s and doctoral projects. I was one of two undergraduates to present. I agreed and spent the next nine months anxious to make the presentation. In the end, the presentation went well, but that’s when I learned that the phrase “my knees were banging” is a real thing (thank goodness I had a podium to stand behind). Presentation adventures and mishaps followed, including when I introduced over a thousand people in Beijing in the 1990s with the media in attendance. My translator literally ran out of the room in the middle of my presentation. I of course did what any western presenter would – I just spoke more ENGLISH louder. He turned out to be bleeding from his nose, but at the time it felt like a bad anxious dream – I still wonder what made the headlines that night.
For many years, although I accepted that public speaking was a key part of my job, I was anxious the day before any presentation and nervous until I started speaking on stage. Today I am no longer anxious and most of the time I am not afraid to speak. In fact, more often than not, I look forward to speaking.
Related article: Public Speaking Without Sweat: A Speaker’s Guide
Tips for Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
My journey to enjoying public speaking began with Peggy Noonan’s book “On Speaking Well”. Noonan was President Reagan’s speechwriter and is a frequent guest on Sunday political shows. She was also afraid of speaking in public. His book is so relevant and full of helpful advice, that I still use it today.
A few other things that have served me well along the way:
- Start talking as you approach the podium to avoid this “ta dah” moment, which can be terrifying.
- Be at peace with scrambled words. If you twist a sentence, word, or even paragraph, acknowledge it and move on. By telling the audience that you are struggling to string words together that day, you are giving everyone permission to play with it. I recently joined Rich Hein and Dom Nicastro on the CX Decoded podcast and couldn’t pronounce the word “proliferation”. The more I tried, the worse it was and we all ended up laughing. I don’t know if they edited it but it was a perfect example of what we just can’t control.
I had a colleague who already made his 40 minute presentation at a client conference in less than 10 minutes. It was something to see. I have never seen anyone speak so quickly before or since. There was nothing he could do to arrange this session, but at the next conference he took the stage with a banjo and began his speech with a song. Guess what everyone remembers the most?
- If you are really stressed out about a particular presentation, write it down. Once it’s scripted, read it aloud twice a day starting the week before your presentation and right before you go to bed the day before your presentation. You won’t need the script the same day, and you will feel calmer when you introduce yourself.
- NEVER go on stage without drinking – this is a great prop. Having a drink is an acceptable way to take a break and calm down during a presentation. It will feel completely natural to your audience.
- Internalize that most audiences are impressed whether you are on stage or in front of the hall. They root for you. Find someone who nods or smiles to focus on as you give your presentation.
- If you are giving a small group presentation, engage your audience with simple questions such as “does this make sense?” “” Does that mean anything to you? “” What was your experience? Just because you’re the presenter, you don’t have to do all of the speech. In a larger setting, you can always ask a question and request a show of hands to engage your audience.
- Keep your presentation simple. If you’re a nervous presenter, don’t increase your anxiety by adding animations to your deck.
- If you’re doing a question-and-answer session and you don’t know an answer, saying you don’t know is perfectly okay. If this is a question you should know the answer to, you can simply respond with “I need to watch this, let’s go online after the session”.
- Frequency is the most effective element in overcoming fear of public speaking. The more you do, the easier it is.
For the reluctant: make it easier for yourself to speak in public
If you’ve read this far and still think “there’s still no way I’m speaking in public” or “none of this is helpful – I hate presenting”, then my suggestions are as follows:
- Take a class or hire a presentation coach or join something like Toastmasters (a friend benefited greatly).
- Try to design your internal presentations as much as possible so that you can collaborate with someone and present side by side. It is always easier to share the burden.
- If you want to develop a public personality and don’t want to talk, start by commenting on tweets and LinkedIn posts from your industry peers or share their posts and tweets with colleagues and your network. Once you are comfortable with this, you can expand to produce your own original content.
- If you think you might want to try public speaking, start by moderating or participating in a panel discussion. The advantage of being the moderator is that you can prepare your questions, have them on hand, and your role is simply to ask questions. The downside is that you are the focal point of the panel and “always on”. If you are just starting out, being a panelist is the way to go. You can insist that your moderator share the questions they will ask you in advance so that you can prepare. In these environments, your total speaking time will likely only be 10 to 15 minutes.
Like it or not, we all need to have basic presentation skills to be successful in marketing and marketing operations. How far you want to take these skills is up to you. If you want to try public speaking, contact me – I’ll work with you on a panel!
Anita Brearton is Founder / CEO and Co-Director of Marketing of CabinetM, a marketing technology discovery and management platform that helps marketing teams manage the technology they have and find the technology they need. Anita is a longtime tech start-up marketer and has been fortunate enough to lead marketing programs through the early stages of a startup to IPO and acquisition.