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Use assertiveness to ace presentations

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By thinking positively you can walk into boardroom meetings with confidence

Does this sound like you?

»You find it hard to sleep before a meeting;

»Every time you think about a meeting your stomach twists itself into a knot;

»You rehearse in your head how you are going to fail;

»You avoid meetings where there will be a lot of people you do not know.

You may think your actions go unnoticed, but this is untrue and repeat poor performances in meetings will lower your credibility and ensure your career growth remains restricted or stagnant.

Your colleagues may know that you may be shy, but will not deem this an adequate excuse for a poor performance. Other colleagues may think you feel too superior to talk to them, and some may take offence at your actions and think if they had the decency to comment in your presentation then it is only courteous that you do the same for them.

How to contribute to meetings assertively

● State your views concisely and clearly. Try saying: “As I see it…”
● Support. Make others aware of what you agree with and like. A sentence similar to “I agree with Jane’s idea” creates a win-win atmosphere
● Propose and suggest. “How about we take action now?” Assertive and authoritative voices bring action and movement in a meeting, and speed up the turnaround time for results
● State differences. A sentence such as “I see it differently because…” provides optimum results
● Ask for clarification, for example, “When you said you were concerned, what were you thinking of?” No question is stupid. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask
● Summarise. Try saying “I’d like to check that we’re agreed so far.” This reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings as both parties are on the same page

When preparing your speech keep your audience in mind. You need to produce content that is targeted to their needs. Always seek feedback after a presentation. This enables you to find out what works and what needs altering.

Saying the points below to yourself can have a massive impact on your delivery:

“Even if there are people there who I don’t know, I don’t need to be overwhelmed.”

“If I don’t know the answer to something, I can say I’ll get back to them, I don’t need to know everything.”

“Meetings are not a combat zone but an opportunity to find out new information.”

See the tips in the box above to boost your performance.

● This article is adapted from Assertiveness: How To Be Strong in Every Situation by Conrad and Suzanne Potts (Capstone, £10.99). Available from

Suzanne Potts is a motivational speaker in assertiveness, who keynote speaks for conferences and corporate events. Conrad Potts is a psychologist and corporate training consultant who has expertise in change management, performance improvement and motivation

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