7 Little Changes That Will Make a Huge Difference in Your Next Presentation
- eye contact
- use of hands
One of the things that gives me immense pleasure is working with someone on their presentation and having them incorporate one of these 7 little changes into their repertoire. It instantly enhances the presentation. Then, I slowly add one or two more of these techniques to the recipe and they are really cooking.
There are two reasons why these little changes work. For every one of these techniques, research has demonstrated that audience response is positive. These are techniques used by confident people. This is particularly important because the more the audience judges you as confident, the more likely they are to agree with whatever it is you are espousing.
These techniques also allow you to fake it. Fake confidence, that is. As long as the audience reads these techniques as signs that you are confident, it is less important whether you really are. But, then a miraculous thing happens, and this is the other reason why these little changes work. You not only fool the audience into thinking you are confident, you fool yourself. And, over time you believe you are confident and competent. That feeling only makes you stronger as a presenter. Amy Cuddy said, “Don’t fake it ’til you make it. Fake it ’til you become it.” She is a Harvard professor who researches body language.
Here are 7 easy presentation tricks:
#1 Eye Contact communicates to the audience that you are honest and believe in what you are saying. Watch when someone, often children, are not being square with you. They’ll look down at the ground or off to the side, anywhere but in your eyes. When making a presentation, make eye contact with everyone at the table. It will seem awkward to do at first, but once mastered, you will be an infinitely better presenter.
#2 Hands. Using hands and arms to express yourself is something the helps the audience understand your point better. It also makes them believe you know what you are talking about. If you are presenting at a podium, go out of your way to show your hands. If you are presenting seated at a table, make sure your arms are on the table and gesture frequently with your hands. Hands actually help your voice be less monotone and more interesting. Try it. Try speaking without moving your hands. You will have a less energetic delivery.
#3 Volume. Like hands, volume gives you more energy. You’ll find that when you speak in a bigger voice (not shouting) that your posture improves and your hands and arms are more animated. Remember a story I told recently where I pushed a shy woman to speak in an uncharacteristically big voice and she said it unleashed the Super Woman in her.
#4 Posture is an easy way to say you are in control and confident. Whether it is the posture when seated at a table or standing in front of the room, posture says you aren’t afraid of anyone. Bad posture, on the other hand, gives you that “deer in the headlights” look. Bad posture also inhibits volume and enunciation.
#5 Smile. Now, we’re really talking easy techniques to win over the audience. People who smile are confident about what they are saying, people who don’t aren’t. When you smile and make eye contact, the other person will smile back. You want the audience to like you. Smile and they are much more apt to do so. Smiling has a profound effect on your voice. It gives it modulation and makes it more interesting.
#6 Focus. You are so much better building your presentation around one idea instead of several. It also helps to make the presentation more concise and, hopefully, shorter. As we all learned from TED Talks, 18 minutes is the longest a presentation should go, so keep it to a single point and you’ll also stay within that most effective time frame.
#7 Pause. We often think that when it is our turn to speak we need to speak wall to wall; from the time we stand up until the time we sit down. It turns out that pauses sprinkled into your presentation are extremely helpful to the audience in getting the message. When you say something really important, pause after you say it and the audience will remember it longer. Theatrical pauses can surprise the audience and really get them smiling. If you get a bit lost in your presentation and need to regroup a short pause will be helpful. It will seem like the pause takes forever, but the audience will hardly note. And, if you are starting to lose the attention of the audience, just pause, and they will look up to see what’s going on.
These are seven techniques you can do immediately. Use them with other strong presentation techniques, such as storytelling and front-loading information into the presentation.