Recently in a presentation workshop I called on a participant to stand and deliver. Her immediate response: OK!!
She had a big smile, walked up to the front of the room and began her speech. The audience loved her. The secret was that she primed the audience with that OK! It said that she was ready to speak. It said she couldn’t wait to speak. It said “Let me at them!”
The truth is she was scared. She was nervous about speaking because a number of people in the audience were senior to her. But she fooled all of us.
This raises two important lessons.
Lesson #1- You are on stage from the moment you are announced until the moment you sit down. The audience is watching you and will read into your every movement and facial tic trying to get some insight into whether you are going to be a good speaker or not. She let everyone know they were in for a great presentation.
This is a far cry from those speakers who kind of huff and puff something like “Might as well get this over with…” Can you imagine how psyched the audience is to hear that speaker?
Lesson #2- In my workshops people will sometimes say to me that they want me to make them a more confident speaker. I’m not sure I can do that after a couple workshops, but, what I am sure I can do is make them appear to be a more confident speaker. I can make them look the part.
As it happens, confident speakers share a number of common traits. They tend to have good posture. They tend to make excellent eye contact with the audience. They smile. They pause from time to time. They don’t rely on their notes too much. They speak in a strong voice. The audience seeing a speaker with those characteristics assumes that she knows what she is doing. The audience wants to like you and believe in you. These techniques assure them they are backing the right horse.
Note also that the techniques that reinforced a confident speaker are all body language kinds of things- posture, eye contact, voice, smile. Obviously the words you say are very important, but the way you say those words is what helps the audience decide on whether they like you and believe in you.
One last point from all of this. When most people rehearse their presentation, they rehearse the words. Yet, what they really need to rehearse is their whole presentation. How they will stand, body movements associated with certain phrases, looking natural as you look around the audience, etc. These are the things that should be rehearsed. They need to be rehearsed in front of other people. Not in front of a mirror.
A presentation is 93% body language and passion.