Be authentic in your delivery

There are two types of presentations; Presentations that are made to large groups of people that you see CEO’s, politicians and VIP’s give – when done well, these are the ones you typically and unfairly think you need to emulate.

The second type is the one you give every day to colleagues, clients and at social gatherings. In these situations don’t feel you have to present like your favourite politician. You have to present the best you can and your style of delivery will depend on 4 things

Subject: what you are there to talk about.
Occasion: is a product launch, conference or birthday speech.
Audience: think about their expectations, communication styles, motivations and titles.
Your Personality: don’t try and be someone you are not, just be the best you can be.

Why is delivery important?
If you want to effectively communicate with your audience, to influence, persuade or just create a good impression, you need to adapt your delivery style to match the expectations and communication needs of your audience

This is about increasing the size of your delivery skill toolbox, so you can use the right tool for the job.  This takes work and practice but the good news is your tool box is different to everyone else’s.  So your version of dynamic voice will be different to everyone else’s, and your version of serious is also different to everyone else’s. But here’s the thing, the audience knows if you are faking.  So have a look at the eight behaviours listed below and ask yourself what you need to work on.

Once that’s established just focus on that element. Watch videos of people who do it well, try and emulate that facet and make it your own.  Please note that I’m not saying copy other people, but observe them and learn and see how you can incorporate that element into your style. This may be such things as noticing how a presenter may smile a lot or pause or emphasise with a subtle gesture.

Eight Behaviours

1. Facial expression
Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits friendliness, warmth, and approachability.  Smiling is often contagious and others will react favourably.  They will be more comfortable around you and more open to the information you are offering.

2. Eye contact
Steady eye contact helps to regulate the flow of communication, encourages participation, and can be used to develop rapport with the audience.  When the audience feels that you see them as individuals, they are more likely to trust you and be more open to your recommendations.

Some tips for using eye contact to build rapport include

– Length of Eye Contact: Try to maintain eye contact with one person at a time for at least 2-3 seconds. This helps to establish a connection with people and helps you to avoid darting eyes, which can be distracting and communicate nervousness.
– Movement of Eyes:  Direct eye contact towards different parts of the audience throughout the course of your presentation.  Staring too long in one direction may cause you to miss important information and can make certain audience members feel less important.
– Search for Friendly Eyes: If you are nervous, look for a friendly audience member and establish eye contact with that person.  Gradually, work to establish eye contact with everyone.

Some habits to avoid include:

– Talking to the Ceiling: Don’t present to a spot over the tops of the audience’s heads.  They may think you don’t care or they may feel that you are “above them.”
– Talking to the Screen: Don’t speak to your notes, to the whiteboard, or to your visuals.  The audience may not be able to hear you and may become disinterested.
– Clutching Your Notes: Be familiar with your material.  Being tied to your notes or a manual keeps you from establishing eye contact and may cause the audience to question your knowledge, preparedness, and confidence.

When presenting to groups you need to have stronger eye contact than usual.  Have you ever been to a concert and thought the performer was looking directly at you?  Maybe they were, maybe not – either way they were using a technique called clustering.  In this technique you group the audience into clusters.  If you have a large audience your clusters are very small in the first row – one or two people and the cluster becomes bigger the further you go back. If it’s a very large audience then the clusters may be as big as twenty people toward the back

Now target an individual in each cluster, and hold eye contact with that person as you deliver a thought or idea.  When focusing on the clusters at the front of the room hold for a duration of 4 -5 seconds and when focusing on clusters at the back hold for up to 10 seconds.  Move randomly amongst the clusters.  This gives the impression that you are looking at everyone in the cluster.

4. Posture
You communicate numerous messages by the way you hold yourself while presenting.  A person who is slouching or leaning with arms across their chest may be perceived as being uninterested or unapproachable.  Standing erect, facing the audience with an open stance, and leaning forward communicates that you are receptive and friendly.  Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided as it communicates disinterest.

5. Body movement
Moving naturally around a room or stage increases interaction, adds interest, and draws attention to the presentation.  Staying frozen in the front of the room can be distracting and boring for people to watch.  Shuffling feet and pacing can convey nervousness and lack of confidence.

6. Gestures
A lively speaking style captures attention, makes the material more interesting, and facilitates understanding.  Use natural movements to emphasize topics and free, easy arm and hand movements to add personality to your presentation.  If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as boring and stiff.  Gesturing too often can also be distracting for some audiences.

7. Proximity
Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with others.  When interacting, a presenter needs to be aware of people’s defined levels of personal space.  Signals of discomfort caused by invading other’s space may include rocking, leg swinging, tapping, and gaze aversion.  Do not invade an audience member’s intimate space.  Most adults will feel uncomfortable, even if rapport has been established.

8. Voice
Voice is another area of communication that can affect the quality of audience retention.  An interesting and audible voice will be engaging, while a soft or monotone voice can cause boredom or disinterest among participants.  While it may be difficult to listen to and change your own voice, with awareness and practice, it is possible to use one’s voice effectively.  The first step to refining your voice is to understand the components of voice and identify common voice problems.  Once identified, most voice problems can be improved by being aware of the problem, altering some habits, and practicing new behaviors on a regular basis.

Pace is how long a sound lasts.  Talking too fast causes words and syllables to be short while talking slowly lengthens them.  Varying pace helps to maintain the audience’s interest. If you are continuously talking too fast or too slow:•be aware of your normal conversational pace and keep in mind how tension affects the speed in which you talk, •use breathing and natural pauses to slow down your pace, constantly vary your pace in order to maintain audience interest.

Projection is directing the voice so that it can be plainly heard at a distance.  Problems with projection are often the result of tension, breathiness, and breathing from your throat. Try to avoid projecting from your throat which can lead to sore throats, coughing, and loss of your voice. Take slow, deep breaths, initiated from your abdomen.  Open your mouth fully and speak to the people in the back of the room.

Articulation is the ability to pronounce words distinctly.  It often reflects your attitude towards the words you are speaking.  Clear enunciation reflects self-confidence and interest, while slurred or mumbled speech, indicate insecurity or indifference. To remedy this speak at a slower pace than your normal conversational tone, take the time to pronounce each letter or sound within a word. and listen for common articulation problems, such as dropping the “g” at the end of words such as finding or going.

Pitch is the normal range of the voice – its highness or lowness.  Think Pee Wee Herman for high and James Earl Jones for low.  Everyone is capable of a wide voice range.  Stress and poor breathing can greatly alter the pitch of your voice. Try to adjust your pitch to convey different meanings throughout a presentation. To alter pitch, control your breathing; breathe from your abdomen and slow your rate of speech, take pauses to relax between pitch changes

Inflection is the manner in which pitch varies as you speak.  Inflection serves as verbal punctuation and involves changing pitch to convey meaning.  Upward inflections ask a question, suggest uncertainty or doubt, and communicate hesitancy.  Downward inflections give information and convey strength and authority to the audience.

Use upward and downward inflections appropriately. Avoid constant middle inflection where the voice neither rises nor falls but just drones on and on.It may help to think of these seven things as a graphic equaliser – there’s one on page 37. Each event, meeting or interaction you have has a different setting and combination.  So if you have only one setting, every presentation better be exactly the same.

Have a look at these presenters and identify what you like about their style – they are different but they are all passionate.

Helen Fisher: The brain in love
Siegfried Woldhek shows how he found the true face of Leonardo
Aimee Mullins: It’s not fair having 12 pairs of legs

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