A Word From The Pros: Deb Denis

One of the many aspects of my business that I love is connecting with inspiring business owners. One of those is Deb Denis, Author (Kilimanjaro – One Woman’s Journey to the Roof of Africa and Beyond) and Executive Coach. Recently I asked Deb to answer a few questions about presenting. Full disclosure here – I’ve worked with Deb on a number of projects and though we have different styles, they seem to complement one another in practice. Deb is one of those people who belongs on stage – where she can inspire her audience. Read more from Deb…

1. Are you energized by giving talks and presenting? Why or Why not?

[DD] Yes, I am energized by a nervous energy when I present.

2. How do you deal with stage fright or anxiety prior to a talk?

[DD] Meditation in the morning helps, sitting quietly before the presentation helps me relax.  The radio is usually off in the car if I’m driving to an event where I’ll be speaking.  In the moment, I lean on my “dinosaur tail,” and I use deep breathing

3. What was your favorite talk or presentation? Why?

[DD] My favorite presentations are on TED.  I love Matt Cutts’ “Try Something New for 30 Days,” and Candy Chang’s work and presentation based on “Before I die…,” and anything by Sir Ken Robinson and Dan Pink, among many others, because they are positively inspirational.  I think inspiration is a gift and hope to give a TED presentation some day; it will be titled, “Anything is Possible.”

4. If you are willing, please share an embarrassing moment you’ve had while giving a talk or presenting.

[DD] Once, while facilitating a workshop, I went completely blank and forgot what I was supposed to say.  So I tried to read it from the outline I had in my hands, but I couldn’t see the print and had to take off my glasses.  Someone commented on that in particular in the feedback after the session – it was really embarrassing when it happened and then to re-live it when I read the feedback.  Ouch.

5. Do you consider yourself having more of an introvert or an extrovert style in your overall business presence?

[DD] I’m definitely an extrovert who craves introversion.  What I mean by that is: I’m charged up by others, but recognize and appreciate the power and quality of the introverted style of inner strength and focused, one-on-one conversation.  Extroverts are hyper-sensitive to the ‘energy’ of other people, which is great when you’re around positive, upbeat people, but it’s a drag and a downer when you’re around negative nellies.

6. Who is your role model for giving talks and presenting?

[DD] Condoleeza Rice has been a favorite since the first time I heard her speaking.  I’ve come to appreciate a casual presentation style and love Matt Cutts, and the raw emotion of Candy Chang.

7. What is the process you follow to create and deliver your talk or presentation?

[DD] Ha!  You know what this is because the first thing I do is brainstorm with you, Presentation Coach!  You remind me of the key tenets: #1 that it’s about the listener: why are they listening?  What’s in it for them?  And #2 the one key take-away: what is the core message of the presentation.

I make an outline with lots of notes, then pare it down, then skinny it down some more.  I talk to myself in the office, in the shower, in my head and out loud, in the car – all of this to get it right and meet #1 and #2.

8. Do you experience creative chaos anytime in your preparation for a talk or presentation? What do you do when that happens?

[DD] Creative chaos is a powerful motivator.  It can also drive me crazy.  Yes, I experience the angst of creative chaos during the creative process; awareness and acknowledgement of it helps, but not much.  Some of my coping strategies include recognizing it’s happening, working through it with my Presentation Coach (you!), muscling through it on my own, stepping away from it for a short time (minutes, hours, a day+).

I remember a funny example of this.  I finished a book and commented, “it was easy!”  To which you – my Presentation Coach and Creative Partner – replied, “Do you remember what you just went through?!?”  Creative chaos impacts more than just the original creator!

9. Please share a link to one of your favorite or current presentations or talks.

[DD] I enjoyed and am proud of a 5-minute presentation given at a University of Pennsylvania brunch (my alma mater).  The short intro was designed to inspire attendees to come to my discussion table, where we talked about what each person had written down as a personal or professional goal, and how the community and competence developed at UPenn supported or could support it.

What I liked the most is that it was well organized as a result of good planning and preparation (thanks to guidance from my Presentation Coach!).  My intention was to speak clearly and slowly – in fact, it felt like slow-motion to me as I was doing it – and the result didn’t sound slow at all, rather it was clear and well-paced, which was a pleasant surprise.  I’m proud of that presentation and the facilitated conversation that followed.

Deb Denis is an Executive Coach, Author and Adventurer who’s mission in life is to inspire others.