Question – what’s the best way to get the audience to listen to you and pay attention to what you are saying? Answer – you.
Before you even start sharing any information, how you greet your audience and engage with them in the first 10 seconds is how you set the scene for success.
This week’s tips are about the physical delivery of presentations and generating impact with your body and body language. You can have a perfectly crafted presentation with a compelling narrative and persuasive argument but if you don’t deliver it well…it will flop and you’ll be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Sometimes, people focus so much on the content they forget to put time into perfecting delivery. In last week’s blog Tip #3 talked about the 4 Ps of purpose, prepare, practice and persuade and today we pick up on that last point – how to project confidence and persuade your audience.
Do you know what you sound like? Most people don’t – and many don’t want to know – but how do you make an assessment and improve without a baseline to measure from?
If someone asked you to assess their performance, wouldn’t you need to see it to have a view? Yes, you would and it’s the same with your own performance.
So, recording and filming will help enormously (after you get over the cringing).
I talked about voice and projection in Tip #1 but it’s worth reiterating that how you stand or sit has a significant impact on how you sound. When sitting, by leaning in over a desk you crush your lungs and the sound quality is poor. It also makes your voice ‘squashed’ and prevents you from projecting properly.
Try to keep your head level or slightly up to make your voice come across clear, conveying confidence. And see the points on shoulders and breathing mentioned below.
Think about voice speed and cadence too. Do you speak too quickly and sound rushed or chaotic? Are you too slow and risk sending your audience to sleep? Do you vary your tone to emphasise points and keep your audience engaged? Does your voice go up or down at the end of a paragraph to let me know that section is completed?
Body & Posture
Body language is incredibly powerful stuff. I’m not suggesting you get into the (fascinating) world of micro-expressions but do think about what your face and body are doing. Is your resting face disinterested, stern, smiley or blank?
Let’s take the top 4:
Eye contact is critical. C-R-I-T-I-C-A-L.
If you are in front of people then ensure you look at your audience. Scan across the group and, as naturally as you can, make eye contact with people to reinforce your presence and build a connection. If you are on video, be sure to set up your screen so the camera is at eye level and you are looking directly into it.
We’ve all been on countless video calls where participants talk at your photo not to you in the camera – don’t be one of those people.
Holding your resting face in a slight smile takes practice (and it makes your face ache) but it is worth thinking about how your mouth reflects what’s going on in your head. I had one client come to me for coaching on how to look more interested and be more engaging after her manager suggested she alter her usual RBF (Resting Bitch Face) expression.
She had no idea that she looked so disengaged so be sure to ask for feedback from a friend or colleague about what you do with your face on screen or in front of an audience.
Back. Not so you thrust your chest out or look stiff but enough that you sit or stand up straight and open your lungs to maximise oxygen intake and ease your breathing.
Yes, your bottom. This plays a bigger role in successful presentations than you might give it credit for! If you are sitting, sit back in your chair and rest your weight on your bottom, not on your thighs or the backs of your knees. This keeps your shoulders back and lungs open. It also stops you from fidgeting. If standing, see the point below on the ideal partnership between your bottom and feet.
When standing for a presentation, holding a pen is a good idea (see Tip #1) because it stops you from waving your arms around, using them instead to signal where you are going with the narrative and to emphasise key points.
To keep your body still and focus attention on the content (not you jiggling about), it also helps to put one foot slightly in front of the other and put your weight on your back foot. This keeps you grounded, your shoulders back, lungs open and head up for maximum air and projection. When you feel compelled to adjust your position simply switch your weight from one foot to the other.
To emphasise a key point, open your arms and lean forward to put your weight on your front foot then lean back, close your hands back into your centre and let your audience absorb the point.
If you are sitting, put your feet firmly on the ground and make them work with your bottom not against it to stabilise your body posture.
Vital if you are in a swivel chair – the nemesis of the poised presenter.
Tied to posture and voice is breath. Have you ever been presenting, forgotten to breathe and run out of breath at the end of your sentence? Does your voice get stuck at the top of your lungs and start to get wispy or squeaky? Then you need to breathe more and make space to breathe in your script.
One technique I use is to break my content down into lines and short paragraphs and use punctuation and line spaces to show me where to breathe.
In Tip #3 I talked about preparing your content and the importance of practising your words out loud. A very common mistake is to write your notes but not say them out loud. It’s when you do that that you realise where your optimal breath points are and how to use your breathing to emphasise key points.
I’m not referring to auras and anything hippy with this section (not that there’s anything wrong with that of course), it’s about how you project your mood and create the right tone. It’s also about how you get into the optimal mindset to give your best performance.
If you need to project more confidence with your presentations then a brisk walk, running up and down stairs or some other aerobic activity pre presentation will help create more of a buzz and energise you. And it’s better than adding to your nervous energy with caffeine. The reverse works too.
If you rush your presentations or are nervous, then deep breathing and relaxation techniques and/or meditation pre presentation will help slow your mind and balance your energy so you feel calm and balanced as you start to speak.
Power poses can also help with getting your energy level right. Adopt a pose where you feel like a superhero and let your confidence wash over you. Recall moments in your life when you’ve felt energised and confident and let them imbue you with positive feelings.
Look out for next week’s tips on settings and tech tips on giving perfect presentations and don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to have a chat about how to improve your presenting skills and performance.