In my previous article, I shared key insights on preparing for your next presentation. Once the time to hit the stage arrives, the following tips will help you knock your speaking opportunity out of the park.
Start Your Presentation with Positivity
The outset of your presentation is the opportunity for your audience to become acquainted and comfortable with you, and you with them.
First, be conscious of exuding a pleasant facial expression. While they are viewing you, look out at your audience and endeavor to make eye-contact with each person starting at the farthest points of the room and working your way in.
Be inclusive, making each person sense being acknowledged versus feeling like they are one of many in a crowded room.
Your audience will instantly intuit the overture to understand that you are truly speaking with them rather than talking at them. This practice is key and helps advance bonding.
Extend sincere “thank you’s” and “welcome” remarks. Do not rush through these. This is not just a segue into your presentation, these acknowledgements are important unto themselves as they speak to your sincerity.
Walk away from the podium very early and often in your presentation; removing that barrier between you and the audience.
A stiff frame and overly correct posture can make you appear rigid and off-putting, even aloof. Bend at the waist, ever so slightly and lean IN toward them; especially when making key points.
Gesturing either conveys or betrays emotion. Selective gesturing is an art, while over-gesturing is distracting and will kill your presentation. Pointing can indicate emphasis.
When pointing, options include:
- A laser light
- The first two fingers together (index and third fingers)
- The open hand
- Thumb over fist
Regarding eye-contact, too much or too little can invite or limit potential connections.
Be aware of the power eye-contact holds:
- Looking up: the perception is “heaven help me.”
- Looking sideways: suggests you are “shifty.”
- Looking down and pausing again before completing your thought implies you are a thoughtful person and this is a highly effective technique.
Find Your Voice
Voice is 38% of your entire presentation. Therefore, projecting a clear strong voice is critical. Practice cultivating your voice.
Speak from your core. Tonal quality, diction, pace, inflections, grammar and pregnant pauses should be considered.
Pre-plan where you will begin building up to your crescendo. Let your audience hear your conviction and feel your passion. If you are not passionate about your message, how do you expect your audience to buy-in? Use your facial muscles and body language to match your message and emphasize key words to make your point.
Pauses can be highly effective, and several things occur almost simultaneously.
- Serves to instantly induce your audience’s attention.
- Lets your audience process your message.
- Permits you time to breathe and provides energy for the next sentence.
- Lets you formulate and articulate your next thought.
Silence is indeed golden and actually draws people in. Silence is also tantamount to whispering. When we lower our voice, others are, by nature, drawn to what is being said.
On the other hand, dead silences can be “deafening” and may make others anxious.
Avoid use of the “non-words” (“um, er, you know, like”) to fill in silent gaps.
Master the Nuances of Storytelling
As you continue with your presentation, certain words or phrases can endear you to your audience.
Ask, “May I share a story with you?”
Say, “I believe,” or “I feel,” which are stronger than “I think” and carry more conviction.
Use collaborative language such as “we,” “us” and “let’s” which is inclusive and helps to foster relationships (versus “I,” “me” and “mine.)”
Say, “thank you for that question” versus, “That’s a great question,” which implies grading or rating in some way.
I hope you begin weaving these tips into your next speaking opportunity. They will heighten the impact of your presentation and resonate with your audience.