Like many people, I was familiar with Dale Carnegie’s famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book. I’d also heard Dale Carnegie courses were life changing, so another member of the Innovation Women team and I were excited to take “High Impact Presentations”, one of their two-day courses.

It was a small group, about 15 people – policemen, engineers, financial analysts and marketers, like myself. But I don’t think any of us were truly prepared – this class was no walk in the park. The next two days would be filled with hand gestures, clapping, yelling and unbelievable self-discovery.

The first presentation was one of our choice – improv. I spoke about Innovation Women, and the feedback from the other attendees was very positive. I felt great, until I watched my video. It wasn’t terrible, but there was definitely room for improvement. My instructors set a goal for my next presentation: unleash your inner psycho Red Sox fan!

The instructors did an incredible job in determining what each presenter needed to improve. While some of us (like myself) needed to yell and show more excitement, others needed to improve their connection with the audience. It felt over the top and there were many times when I felt self-conscious.

At the end of the course, we were invited to watch recordings of our first and last presentations. I’ve since watched them several times and every time I am amazed how much I improved. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to work with the Dale Carnegie team (and my fellow trainees!)

Before taking this class, I considered myself a reasonable public speaker. Admittedly, three years ago I would avoid the stage at all costs but now I look forward to the opportunity. I expend a lot energy on my script and presentation but I also spend a lot of time thinking about how I look when the spotlight’s on me – my posture, my tone of voice. Basically, I’m thinking about how the audience will perceive me.

News flash: it’s not about me, it’s about the audience. In addition to the personalized training and skills, the trainers had one very important message for us. They reminded us several times: presenting or public speaking is not about the presenter, it is about the audience. Once you stop focusing on yourself and think about what your audience wants and needs, you’ll be amazed at how much more impact your presentations will have.

Happy speaking! ~Karolina

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