By Peter Mosley
In my courses there are three things I really try to drive home. To me, the most important things to remember are:
- Make Eye Contact
- Slow Down
When you are in front of people, whether you are an old pro at this, or not, you will be nervous. Accept it. To combat this, I recommend you smile. Not a goofy, pinned-to-your-face grin, but an overall feeling of accomplishment and contentment. Just relax, be happy! Smile.
How I try to get to this place, is to make sure I have a wee bit of time before giving my presentations. I try and get somewhere quiet all by myself and close my eyes. My pre-game moment. I imagine the best presentation I ever did. I think of some moment of great peace and pleasure from my childhood, or a recent moment that really warms the heart. Take that emotional feeling to the stage. Sure you are nervous, but people react to a smile far more more watching you sweating bullets and trying to be brave. A smile connects with everyone. It also relaxes the muscles in the face and in turn the throat.
Make Eye Contact
This is not easy for a lot of folks, but to effectively communicate with an audience you have to speak to them. And when you are speaking to them you have to look at them directly in the eye. If it is a small room you can go from person to person. If it is a huge venue you will see certain folks in the fiorst few rows. One trick I have always used is when I give a presentation I get there early and migle with the audience. I ask folks where they are from, what they do and listen. The idea here is forming a quick bond. When I get up on stage I start my talks speaking to these same folks. I call em "Friendlies."
If you are shy and find it difficult to look directly into someone's eyes you can focus to a corner of their face – looks the same and has the same effect.
This is the #1 flaw in most presenters. They speak way to fast. I recommend 100 words a minute! You can learn this by reading out loud into a recorder of some type.
Grab 1000 words from an ebook and time yourself. First see if you can stretch it out over the 10 minutes, then listen to see what the tone, inflection and character of each word is. The idea with great verbal communication is to give audiences rich, colourful words that evoke an emotion, or at the very least a picture.
If you have small kids and read to them before bed you HAVE to read this way! They are the toughest audience. Your words have to convey the emotion of that story, the beautiful princess, the evil dragon and the battles with the prince! If you drone in a monotone your audience (da kid) will be long gone!
The slower the better for another reason. It is more authoritative, more relaxing and people can easily get into your rhythm of the presentation. I have never, ever seen a presenter go too slow. Full stop.
- Look directly at the person asking you a question and make sure they're finished before you start your answer. During your answer, don't look just at the questioner, but talk to the rest of the audience. If you direct your attention only to the questioner, you'll lose the others' attention.
- With audiences of 30 or more people, it's a good idea to repeat each question so the entire audience knows exactly what question you're answering. This also gives you valuable thinking time. You don't have to repeat each question verbatim; just make sure you restate the essential elements. And, never say "That is a great question!" That demeans all other questions.
- Bring back your best visual to accompany your closing remarks. This will give your audience both verbal and visual reinforcement of your central theme. (Knowing in advance that you're going to return to a key visual will also keep you focused on your conclusion during the entire presentation.)