How you say something is every bit as important as what you say. When we start out delivering our great presentation, we want the audience to hear what we say. Perfecting how we are delivering the information can go a long way towards helping our audience take in the information. There is nothing better than practice. Instead of leaving that important presentation to chance, practice actually doing it ahead of time. And video yourself! I know, I know, you don’t like to see yourself on video, you don’t like how you look, you don’t like how your voice sounds, etc. But, it is critical that in addition to working on the information in your presentation, you perfect your delivery of that information. Here are 5 things to consider:
Stance – While standing still in one place, consider having an open, inviting stance. Having your feet planted parallel to one another, rather than crossing your legs at the ankle or knee, signals a more open attitude to your audience. Likewise, you will be received much better if your arms are open or neutral at your side than if you cross your arms during your talk. How you stand and gesture helps to engage your audience, so you want to be careful not to put barriers up that block that connection.
Tone of Voice – Think about having a conversational tone to your voice, not harsh or condescending. Are you feeling superior to your audience or intimidated by your audience? This shows in your tone of voice. Practice by recording yourself and try to speak as if you are talking with a friend. Listen to the recording or have a friend listen and ensure you are coming across well. You are ultimately trying to reflect your authenticity through your tone of voice.
Eye Contact – This is an uncomfortable thing to do, especially if you are nervous! You will find that if you force yourself to look at one person at a time that it actually helps you connect with the whole audience and your nerves begin to subside. I put little stickies on several chairs at home and draw smiley faces on them. I then act as if they are my audience and practice moving from one to the other with intention. This practice really helps me when I am presenting to a live group.
Speech Patterns – As you watch the recording of your presentation (PLEASE practice your presentation, record it and watch it back!), listen for any filler words such as “so”, “like”, “um”, “uh”, or anything else you say frequently in your pattern of speech. While these are not horrible in a short conversation, they become very distracting in a longer presentation in front of a group. My husband shared with me that he actually counted 96 “um’s” during an engineer’s presentation in a meeting he was attending. Talk about distracting! On top of that, these filler words indicate hesitation and diminish your credibility since you don’t sound confident in what you are saying.
Death by Pacing – You’ll be alive at the end of the presentation, but the content of your presentation may be overshadowed by your constant movement back and forth across the front of the room. Certainly move when you need to or for added affect when making a point, but think about standing and addressing your audience with that open stance of feet and hands that I first referenced. This will give your audience a break from seeing the same physical movements from you and add variety and emphasis.
Finally, enjoy the journey toward great presentation delivery skills! It is a journey that most of us need to practice with improvement in mind. I know that I am always working to enhance my delivery dynamics and become a more engaging speaker. I love to coach people to improve as well. Please reach out if I can be of assistance! I would love to hear from you if these tips have helped you take the next step toward improving your presentation delivery.