During the last week of August, GWNET and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) held their fifth and final knowledge-transfer webinar for participants of the People-Centered Accelerator Mentoring Programme, on the topic of Self-Presentation and Public Speaking. We were delighted to welcome key speaker Sonia Zavesky, Director of Zavesky Consulting Pty Ltd, a strategic verbal communication consultancy working with a range of clients to increase their confidence and competence in public speaking and media interviews.
After nine months of mentorship meetings and discussions, we were thrilled to close our time together with a conversation on how to present ourselves publicly in a professional capacity. Whether we are on stage giving a critical presentation or in a meeting room with a set of colleagues, it’s important to prepare and bring our best self to each situation. For women in the energy access space, this couldn’t be more important. At this time when so many of us are spending much of our time on video calls, we welcomed an opportunity to begin implementing tools and strategies to present our best selves.
During the webinar, Sonia walked participants through many stages of presentation – from preparing and practicing to closing and answering audience questions. She asked participants to consider every other aspect of public speaking besides the words and content of a presentation. We learned about mimicking a power pose before a talk to build our inner confidence and how smiling (even the forced ones!) have an impact on our physiology.
Mentees in the PCA programme asked about how to effectively approach networking in a conference setting and how to avoid getting thrown off by difficult or aggressive audience questions. We discussed the importance of curbing our tendency to apologize without reason and how to bring wandering audience focus back to our significant presentations.
Some of the key insights from our webinar included:
- Don’t neglect your body when preparing for a presentation. Good sleep, mindful breathing and limited caffeine are all useful for bringing your best possible self.
- Don’t forget to breathe! If you can, lengthen the exhale and focus on your breathing to centre yourself if nervous. Relax your shoulders and ground your feet as you prepare to speak.
- Become comfortable with short silences and practice finishing complete sentences without trailing off at the end.
- Anticipate difficult questions and develop responses ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to offer to get back to an audience member on a particularly challenging question. Develop practices to maintain your confidence when thrown off track with opposition or intense questioning.
- Come prepared for meetings or conversations if you find yourself struggling to respond quickly when presented with new information. Create practices around speaking that work to your particular needs.
Finally, Sonia left us with these encouraging works, “Be bold, be strong!“
If you are interested in knowing more about GWNET’s mentoring programmes, read more here.