Remember show-and-tell? It was fun, right? The good news is that it was also a great training ground for improving your public speaking ability.
Some of the best memories I recall were created during my kindergarten show-and-tell time. I would spend hours thinking about what I would bring and how I would describe it to my 5-year-old classmates.
It was a very serious decision for this kindergartener.
One week, I was particularly inspired. I wanted my item to stand out from all the others. I wanted my treasure to be special. As I went out the front door, I placed in my pocket a tiny brown pill bottle with a round rock in it.
When my name was called, I proudly displayed this fantastic object. My teacher, Mrs. Morrison, and my classmates listened with rapt attention as I talked about my mom going into the hospital to have a gallstone removed. How lucky I was that she had brought it home from the hospital, preserved for all time!
When I returned home and told my mom what I had taken to show-and-tell, she was horrified. A few weeks earlier, I had sung a questionable song for show-and-tell, and this, combined with the gallstone incident, inspired my mom to implement an “is it decent?” test before giving me approval to share something with my kindergarten class.
I look back on these times with great joy because show-and-tell was so much fun!
It was also my first experience of standing up in public to give a presentation. What has changed since then? And why has it changed? To find out, let’s consider what I learned:
- It is important to take time to think about what one is going to present. It should be something that inspires you, or at least that you think is pretty darn cool.
- My choice of topic may have an unexpected effect on others. Some presentations need to be brainstormed and planned with others so that we don’t fall into an unknown hole. The result may not be an embarrassed mom, but it may be a misstep professionally.
- Our presentations, if planned and chosen appropriately, can live in the minds of others, as well as our own, for a long time. Our presentations can influence others for a greater cause and continue to live beyond the moment when we take the stage or present in a boardroom. Often, I wonder if Mrs. Morrison remembers my show-and-tells and smiles.
- Perhaps most importantly, I don’t remember being nervous or concerned about what my classmates would think. I just stood up and boldly shared a topic that I knew very well. I shared a story that had impacted my young, naïve life, assured that others would be just as interested.
Why can’t public speaking feel like that now?
- Before we get lost in an explanation about how much more intense our work is now, pause and ask yourself, is it really?
- Or did someone somewhere along the line make you feel like it had to be hard and nerve-wracking to speak in front of groups so that now you consider it to be work?
- Maybe it feels like work because you don’t want to appear to be an arrogant, self-obsessed person who loves the spotlight?
- How much easier is it for your audience to hear what you have to say if you like what you’re talking about and you enjoy being there?
- Is citing numbers for a CFO any less exciting than seeing a gallstone when you are 5 years old? It’s your enthusiasm and interest in the subject that matters. It’s how you connect with your audience.
The Bottom Line
Show-and-tell was fun! And it can still be a pleasure to share your ideas and get feedback from your audience. It doesn’t have to be hard or painful to present in order to be effective or to be taken seriously. When you enjoy show-and-tell time, your audience will, too.
This article was originally posted on BeInkandescent.com in May 2014.