(It’s not what you think!)
We’ve all been there. Presenting to an audience can be nerve-wrecking as it is, so the last thing you want to worry about is positioning your arms properly and gesticulating, right? We get nervous and focus too much on our delivery that we miss the point of getting our message across.
Body language can be very important to interpersonal communication. There are often critical ideas and emotions that remain unspoken but which are intimated through body language. Body language can also be instrumental to gauge the power dynamic between individuals engaged in dialogue.
But in performance, for example, when presenting to a group at a meeting or conference, we have less subconscious and sub-textual concerns. Because the presentation is just not about the speaker – it’s about the information that an audience needs to receive, to learn and make decisions. Our voice and body are the primary tools we use to communicate that information.
And as presenters, we’re not only judged by what we say but by our appearance too. It’s our natural instinct to judge what we see. As much as you want the audience to like you for your mind and not your appearance, their first impression is going to be based on how you look. They will mentally categorize you in just a few seconds, and then decide whether or not you’re a person they can connect with.
What you need to realize is that you have the power to shape and control the first impression that people use as a basis for judging you. By learning some of the principal ways that your own appearance, posture, gestures, facial expression and even tone of voice affect your mind, you will become more aware of the factors influencing your mood, and give yourself an edge in presentations and negotiations.
Here are some body language tips to keep your audience engaged throughout your stage time:
- Appearance: What you say is of course more important than what people see. However, your appearance is an important aspect of your presentation skills. You want your audience to listen to what you have to say. Dress the part. Your presentation begins the moment someone recognizes you as the speaker.
- Posture: Keep a good posture, stand straight with shoulders back, relaxed and feet shoulder width apart. Don’t cross your arms, put your hands in your pocket or slouch. Face the audience as much as possible and keep your body open.
- Eye contact: Eye contact is crucial when speaking. It genuinely connects you with your audience. And because you’re talking to people as if you’re in a one-on-one conversation, you’ll come across as conversational. That makes you easy to listen to and engaging.
- Gestures: Hand and arm movements are an important part of our visual picture when speaking in public. Not only are they a non-verbal representation of how we feel, they reinforce our message, and help us appear confident and relaxed. When using visual aids, point and look at the relevant data. The audience will automatically follow your hands and eyes.
- Breathe right: Relaxed and deep breaths ensure that your voice holds power and can project. Use slow and measured breathing to pace your speech, and pause to emphasize key points.
- Connect: Don’t hide behind a podium, your laptop, the mike or the screen. Orientate yourself towards the audience. They need to see your face, to know that you are attentive to their interests and available to meet their needs.
- Move with purpose: When you move (and you should!) have a specific destination in mind. For example, you can re-position yourself to address a specific audience to the left. Step forward to respond to a question. Walk around and towards people. Ever notice people tend to participate more if they have close proximity to a presenter?
- Smile: To make your audience feel comfortable, all you have to do is just smile! Smiling helps you feel more comfortable and reduces your tension – and because it’s contagious, it attracts a positive atmosphere that allows for an engaging discussion.
The importance of good body language cannot be underestimated. It’s incredibly important not only to audience engagement, but to how your overall message is received. No matter how good your speech, if you are motionless, expressionless and dull, your audience will lose interest within minutes.
Bonus tip: Ask a friend to record a short video of you presenting using a smartphone, and then give you feedback on your gestures. Use the list of common gesturing mistakes in this post as a checklist to improve your use of effective gestures.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
Presentations don’t just communicate an idea, but also help start conversations and build relationships. To deliver a good presentation, you need to realize that presentation skills are as important as the information being presented. And remember, it’s not always the facts that sell; it’s more likely the presentation.
Below are some useful tips to power up your presentation and gear up that presenter persona in you!
Good presentations come from good preparation. Great presenters not only prepare, but practice a lot. Plan ahead and prepare your information with the visuals to go along with it. Researching on your audience will help you present in ways that target their interests. So what makes a presentation work? It’s simple – you have to make sure it never gets boring. So try to make the best use of your time and space. In your notes, only write down key points that you wish to elaborate while presenting. Unless you want your audience to sleep, don’t read from the paper or notes, it’ll only make you sound monotone and boring. Be entertaining and informative, instead of reciting facts. Practise makes perfect is the mantra here, practice out vocally and loud as much as you can, but don’t memorize. Rehearsing and memorizing are two different things.
People love to listen to presenters who are engaging and interesting. Hooking the listeners with an effective opening that creates an emotional relationship will increase your chances of success in giving a great presentation. A good idea is to start your presentation with something light-hearted, like a funny story. During my days in design school, there was this one lecturer who made self-deprecating jokes while presenting, but believe it or not, we loved attending his lectures! No, we’re not suggesting you to do the same (though it works!) but being an entertaining speaker is an added advantage. Another way to gain the attention of your listeners is to outline what you are going to talk about, why and what are your aims and objectives.
In presentations, the tone of voice matters. Project your voice to all corners of the room with confidence. Be loud and clear. Don’t use words like ‘’um’’, ‘’ah’’ or ‘’you know’’. In addition, speak slower than you normally do – this makes it audible and easier for listeners to digest what you are saying and also gives them time to think and reflect! Studies show that chances of attitude change are higher when the presenter is emotionally aroused and enthusiastic about the material they deliver. Here’s a tip for that, try to practise talking like your favourite entertainment personality.
Visuals are important if you wish to create an impact in your presentation. They illustrate and emphasize your ideas. They help focus attention and make your presentation livelier. Besides visual aids, colour, balance, contrast and use of repetition can make your presentation more interesting. This won’t go wrong, we all love pictures!
Beat the anxiety
Some of the world’s famous presenters have freely admitted to nervousness and stage fright. Mark Twain said ‘’There are two types of speakers; those that are nervous and those that are liars’. Even experienced speakers tend to have presentation anxiety. While it’s normal to feel nervous before presenting, this can be disruptive to your continuity. The best way to combat nervousness is practice, practice and more practice. Mike Aguilera, a communication expert suggests changing the word ‘presentation’ to ‘conversation’ to ease off things. Turn that nervousness into positive energy. Consider your presentation to be a normal conversation than a ‘formal’ speech. And don’t worry, with experience, you build confidence, and with time, your levels of anxiety will decrease. Be patient and don’t let go of any presentation opportunities that come your way.
And finally, it’s important to enjoy your presentation. Presenting with passion will motivate your audience to learn and listen, and ask questions.
Here’s wishing you a killer presentation!!
One of the toughest skills to master is the art and science of crafting a memorable speech. Penning a persuasive prose takes lots of blood, sweat and tears. For many of us though, the appeal of writing a speech falls somewhere between getting a speeding ticket and filing your tax returns.
Still nervous? Speech writing can do that to you. Perhaps you’ve lived with the idea that you were never good with words, and worse, you feared being judged or ridiculed – we’ve all been there at some point in our lives.
Writing a speech is as straightforward as learning to read out loud. The key to writing good speeches lies in using a theme. It is important to decide who will make up your audience. Your perception of the audience shapes the tone of your speech. Speech writing is very personal, as the writer talks about his views, thoughts and emotions. The writer and/or the presenter should capture an audience’s interest with the first or second sentence of the introduction.
A good speechwriter has to envision a goal that he wants to reach with his speech. Being clear and being able to communicate in words that transition easily from one thought to the next will go a long way to impress your audience.
Like anyone who has been involved with crafting a speech, I have had moments when I was at a loss when it came to finding that perfect phrase that “made” my speech. Writing a speech is by no means for the faint-hearted, the shy or the meek. Speeches are all about clarity, structure and seizing the moment.
While speech writing may seem daunting, its rewards make up for all the uncertainties of the writing process.
Here are some tips to help you along:
Know your subject matter. – Ask yourself these questions. Have you done your research? Do you know what you are talking about, and does it have a purpose to the end matter?
Who’s listening? Who will the speaker be addressing? What are the concerns and cares of the people listening? Is there an “elephant in the room” that you need to consider? You must know who your audience is in order to best decide how to affect your message on them.
Keep it short. Since the attention span of most people is rather short, a long speech can take your audience on a one-way ticket to snoozeland. You will lose your listeners if your speech is too long and monotonous sounding. Keep it short and succinct with an added punch.
Use imagery. People remember things when they see images. Using imagery helps to retain the content of your speech and the message you want to get across. Imagery will also keep the audience entertained.
Use famous lines. Reference brings with it many ideas and emotions associated with famous people or life-changing events. You can quote famous lines that reference the Shakespeare, poetry, songs, books, and other speeches. These references bring a lot more with them than just the phrase or quote you use, especially if your audience is familiar with it.
No bombs, please! Keep it simple – don’t use bombastic words. A great example is President Obama’s speeches. His speeches are always written in simple English. When messages are made simple, they cut deeper and have more impact.
End strong. The final impression you make on the audience is the one they will remember. Conclude well. End with a line people will remember, or one that contains the message you want them to remember. Aside from the opening, the ending is the most important line.
Skillful speech-makers are familiar with their written content. The principles for writing effective speeches are the same, whether for a personal speech at a wedding or a high-powered presentation by a politician or celebrity. A well-written speech can drive sales, deepen commitment, motivate hearts and minds, and even change the world.
Injecting humour in your speech is a great way to wake up the audience to the sound of your voice!
We’ve all been there at one time or another, suffering through a droning presentation, daydreaming about some fantasy island, basking in the sun …. but I digress! I know of people who’ve even snored through presentations and who can blame them!
Humour can be valuable tool in public speaking. Adding a dash of humour here and there can spice up your presentation.
Appropriate humour relaxes an audience and makes them feel more comfortable with you as the speaker; humour can bring attention to the point you are making; and humour will help the audience better remember your point. It can break down barriers so that your audience is more receptive to your ideas.
Incorporating humour into a presentation doesn’t mean you take your audience or the topic lightly – it just means you’re skilled in effective communications, and you know and respect your audience enough to want to give a memorable presentation.
Humour is an easy game to play – all you need is practice. The best and most comfortable place to start is to draw from your personal experience. Think back to an embarrassing moment in your life – while it may not have been funny at the time, it’s likely that you would have grown from the experience and can laugh about it now. Think about the punch line and use it in your speech.
If you’re still uncomfortable or unsure about using humour in your presentations, fret not – here are some tips to get you started.
- The first step is to feel confident in yourself. Self-confidence is key to contemplating yourself successfully at the stage. Confidence is vital to deliver the desired and natural humour so the public explodes in laughter.
- Create your speech first, then think about the humour. If you try and be funny first, before getting your message clarified, you can run aground. You’ll spend more time worrying about how to be humorous rather than focusing on your message.
- Test your speech with a small group of people. Don’t get discouraged – sometimes it’s not about the humour, it’s the delivery. Pace yourself, speak clearly and aim to deliver the punch line at the right time. I’ve changed the timing of my punch lines on occasion. I would study the audience before my presentation, and strike a conversation with an audience member while on stage – drawing him/her to a joke I’m sharing, at times with hilarious results. This not only gets the attention of the audience but also engages them and it lightens the atmosphere.
- When making a presentation, you generally make your point through the use of presentation tools like powerpoint – don’t be afraid to incorporate funny graphics, captions or cartoon clips. Remember, the aim is not to be a standup comic. Graphics and cartoon images make it easy for your audience to pay attention, relate and remember your point.
- While everyone loves a good laugh humour can be risky because a poorly placed comment that you intended to be funny could backfire on you. One way to avoid this is to ask the hosts if there are any topics that are off limits.
- Make sure the humour relates to the point you’re making. Don’t use humour that is simply there to make the audience laugh. The humour should tie in with some aspect of your speech. For e.g., I was once speaking at a seminar about physical activity – I talked about myself being accident-prone, always tripping on shoe laces and publicly pledged my undying gratitude to shoemakers who revolutionized the world with Velcro for sports shoes! The audience laughed (presumably from visualizing my falling flat on my face!), but more importantly they remembered the point I was making about the importance physical activity in our daily lives. You have to tie in appropriate humour with your presentation – so that the audience goes home with your key takeaway messages.
It doesn’t matter which of the many available devices you use to inject humour as long as they’re in good taste, relevant to your presentation and your audience, and help to illustrate or convey a key point.
A good point to note is make sure the humour you use is funny to you. If it doesn’t get you laughing then you cannot expect the audience to do so. You want them to laugh with you, not at you!