I might qualify as the worst dancer in the world, but I dance better than I did two weeks ago. For my wife’s birthday, I bought ballroom dance lessons for the two of us. It’s a blast. We have a great time, and every week I get a little better, I expand my confidence, and I add few new steps to my small, but growing, repertoire of dances.
I point all this out not so you’ll take pity on my wife having to plod around the dance floor with me, but because becoming proficient and eventually polished with presentation skills has a lot in common with dance lessons. You only get better by keep getting out there. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll step on a few toes. You’ll have some awkward moments. Get out there any way.
The more often you walk to the front of the room, face an audience, and share your message, the better you will become. It doesn’t happen over night. Coaching helps, a lot. Practice makes a huge difference in your performance. Gradually, you’ll notice a positive cycle taking place: Coaching improves your practice. Practice improves your performance. Your performance improves your confidence. Improved confidence improves your practice. The cycle continues.
The real payoff comes over time. As you improve, you distance yourself from the people who stay on the sidelines, afraid to venture in front of the room. You become a master communicator—a key skill that most effective leaders have—while others who may have even more talent than you stay out of the spotlight because they didn’t have the courage to stumble in the early stages of improvement.
If you want to become a better presenter, a better public speaker, then follow my lead in dancing:
- Get coaching.
- Be willing to make mistakes.
- Apologize when you step on someone’s toes, but don’t let that stop you.
- Keep getting out there.
- Celebrate small successes and improvements.
- Have fun.
- Return to step 1 or 2 and keep going because it’s a journey, not a destination.
Now, back to the waltz. And one, two, three…