4 secrets of presenting so people listen - Part 1

Have you ever given a presentation and realized you’ve lost your audience? It can be horrifying to look out and see the glazed over stares, or people looking down at their smart phones checking Facebook for the thousandth time while you talk.

We’ve probably all been there. So let’s learn from these mistakes. What can you do to truly connect with your audience? How can you ensure that your message is getting heard?

I’ve compiled four secrets of the pros you can use to ensure that your next presentation drives people to action rather than up the wall. In this article I’ll deal with the first two secrets on verbal and nonverbal communication.

Body language speaks volumes

When people say you never get a second chance to make a first impression they aren’t kidding. It takes merely a fraction of a second to formulate a first impression.

Facial expression and body language (called non-verbals) govern how other people think and feel about you. They also affect how you perceive yourself.

Changing your posture to present confidence and authority doesn’t just convey these qualities to your audience, it also conveys them to you.

Here are some tips for putting your best foot forward (see what I did there?):

  • Stand straight: This doesn’t mean sticking your nose up in the air or standing at attention like a soldier on review. Just imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you up to your full height.
  • Smile: Not a big cheesy grin but a genuine smile that expresses joy and an interest in others.
  • Move with purpose: Refrain from pacing, rocking and fidgeting. Movement can be very beneficial, but too much is distracting and can convey a lack of confidence which undercuts your presentation.

A TED Talk by Amy Cuddy does an excellent job of explaining non-verbals and how practising dominant body postures can not only cause others to view you more favorably, but affect how you perceive yourself as well.

Your voice is your passport

The human voice is a wondrous tool. The words you say and the tone in which you say them can be both the most devastating weapons and most soothing ointments known to humanity. How you say something is more important than what you say. When you wish to communicate something, consider your delivery method.

Julian Treasure, in a February 2013 TED talk, details six vocal tools. These are: Register, Timbre, Prosody, Pace, Pitch, Volume. I won’t belabor each here (watch his Talk, it’s worth the 9 minutes, 58 seconds), but I do want to call out a few.

  • Register: This has to do with how high or low your voice is. People tend to subconsciously find lower voices more trustworthy and pleasant to listen to.
  • Pace: Control the speed of your delivery. Speaking quickly can give an impression of passion and excitement. Slowing down the delivery can lend emphasis to a certain point. A well-placed pause can lure people in as they await your next pronouncement.
  • Volume: Not only is it important for everyone to be able to hear you, but changes in volume can also be used to emphasize points.

Be mindful of the image you portray. Your posture and voice will lay the foundation for your entire presentation. Use these tools to establish a positive expectation, drawing people in to listen to what you have to say. In the next article we’ll take a look at truly connecting with your audience and holding their attention.

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