While having the right content prepared is vital to the success of any presentation, every bit as important is the delivery of that speech. If an audience is bored by the presenter or if people find they are turned off by the speaker’s approach, it doesn’t matter what he or she is saying. The listeners are not going to be engaged.
The following are five areas where presenters need the most improvement, but often don’t know it either because of a lack of experience, lack of honest feedback or a lack of being coached on effective skills. Practice is the best way to improve, but eliminating blind spots begins with self-awareness.
Blind Spot No. 1 — Using nonwords
Nonwords fillers are things such as “Ums,” “Ahhs,” “OK,” “Ya know” and “All right.” These are unnecessary fillers that become the rodents of presentation delivery.
Tip: Exterminate them by paying conscious attention to how you communicate and substituting silence instead of nonwords. For more on the value of the silence, see No. 2.
Blind Spot No. 2 — The pause
Most presenters feel awkward when they pause. DON’T! When presenters do pause, it feels like 20 minutes in their heads, when it’s actually two or three seconds to the audience.
Tip: Get comfortable with silence. Pausing is an extremely powerful tool as it allows your audience to absorb your last point while you prepare your next point. Pausing also shows confidence in yourself and the value of your message. Become one with the pause. Make the pause your friend.
Blind Spot No. 3 — Eye contact
Most presenters do not hold eye contact nearly long enough or include everyone in the audience while speaking. This is taking a dangerous risk for disconnection and losing audience buy-in
Tip: Do not scan and dart your eyes like a shifty-eyed, untrustworthy character. Get comfortable with the audience by looking everyone in the eyes for two or three seconds each and then repeat this process throughout your presentation. You show a warm, involved connection and respect your audience by doing so.
Blind Spot No. 4 — Passion, confidence, volume
These three components go together because it’s difficult to be effective with one unless the other two are included. Projecting volume with sincere passion and a certainty in your voice is the fastest way to command an audience’s attention, gain their confidence in you and your message.
Tip: You must show conviction in your delivery and captivate the energy and attention of multiple people who have different backgrounds and interests. Project your voice loudly and with an enthusiasm that extends beyond the dynamics of one-on-one dialogue. It’s not phony; it’s what engaging an audience is all about.
Blind Spot No. 5 — The “turn-and-look”
When presenters think of movement, they either keep their feet in cement, awkwardly positioned straight ahead or they pace nervously. Both of these practices detach a desirable connection with your audience.
Tip: Pivot your head and entire body and directly face different members of the audience as though you’re greeting them individually.
Bonus tip: Even when the subject is serious, begin your speech with a pleasant smile. It sets a positive tone that respects the audience and makes the speaker more likeable.
Double bonus tip: Be yourself and speak from the heart. Audiences are drawn to authenticity more than any other quality.
Joe Takash is the president of Victory Consulting, a Chicago-based executive and organizational development firm. He advises clients on leadership strategies and has helped executives prepare for $3 billion worth of sales presentations. He is a keynote speaker for executive retreats, sales meetings and management conferences and has appeared in numerous media outlets. Learn more at www.victoryconsulting.com.