A key mistake made by those who want to develop their presentation skills is spending an inordinate amount of time on “programming” their “performance.” Far too many articles, books and training programs focus far too much on how to gesture…how big to gesture…where to move…when to move…the right facial expressions…whether to make direct eye contact or “sweeping” eye contact, etc.
My observation in having worked with more than 2,000 presenters over the years is that while those aspects of delivery are important, trying to program and project them in a planned way comes off as unnatural, awkward and ineffective. As such, they can compromise the overall impact of the presentation since audience members can tell they are, well, phony.
So, what to do? How does one develop delivery skills that do not come off as obviously programmed and unnatural. There is a single aspect of presentation delivery that drives all other aspects of the animated delivery (gestures, movement around the stage, facial expressions, etc.). And this single aspect drives them for better or worse. In other words, whatever level of presentation proficiency one has, the effectiveness of this one area is determining the effectiveness of all these other areas…again, for better or worse.
What is this single most important aspect of presentation delivery? The voice.
The amount of vocal energy, variety, pacing and inflection drives that of the entire presentation delivery. Think about it: if you are speaking with variety and energy and engagement, those qualities will also be reflected in your gestures, facial expressions, movement and eye contact. Conversely, if one speaks in a monotone or in a voice that doesn’t change much, they are not going to change their overall delivery animation much either.
Remember the trick of simultaneously patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time? We’ve all tried that at some point. It’s not easy, is it? Impossible? No. But one has to concentrate to do it, if they can do it all.
It is the same way with your presentation voice. If you work to speak with energy and a varied pace that carries inflection, your gestures, movement, expressions and eye contact will follow in lockstep. And they will do so in a way that comes easily, without forethought, feels natural and projects comfort, confidence and credibility.
So forget programming gestures, expressions and awkward movement. Develop your voice and the rest of it will take care of itself.
NEXT: Planning “how” you say “what” you say.
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