Present with Presence

Research shows that 55% of people make initial judgements about us based on how we look, 38% based on how we sound, and only 7%, on what we say.

The preparation before your presentation and the moments after, are essential for both you and your audience. The way you dress, make eye contact, your body language, use of your voice, emotional expression and authenticity, all create a presence which your audience experiences and remembers.

Your clothing

Start by considering your appearance. Ensure that your attire is appropriate to your audience and suitable for the occasion. You need to know your audience to dressed right. Avoid dressing more formally than, or dressing down compared to your audience. Try to wear clothes that are only slightly better than what your listeners are wearing. If you do not know your audience, it would be better to wear a jacket, and then take it off to dress down, when necessary; it is easier to dress down than to dress up at the last minute. Also, avoid wearing swinging keys or jewellery, as the sound created by such items interferes with the microphone and becomes a distraction.

When speaking

Have your notes handy. Know the correct way to address your audience. Take a few deep breaths, look around, wait for everyone’s attention and then smile. These few gestures communicate that you are happy talking to your audience.

The presentation is the ‘selling’ of your speech so aim for a bright and exciting performance. You owe it to yourself and your audience to develop skills in showmanship and to be entertaining no matter how serious or pedestrian the topic may be.

Visual impact – body language

An audience will believe what they see in your face and your manners before they trust your words. Ensure your audience receives the same message through their eyes as through
their ears.

Stand comfortably and relaxed, trying not to fidget or sway. A lectern is convenient for notes, but it may put a barrier between you and your audience. The decision to use or not use a podium is based on your purpose and your need for notes.

For more on how to best use a podium, click here.

Look your audience in the eye to make a significant impact.

Use hands, shoulders, arms and facial expressions to accompany words where appropriate. Make your gesture natural. Good gesture helps an audience understand your message; a bad gesture draws attention only to itself. An outstretched palm is a ‘reaching out’ sign while a jabbing finger can be threatening.

Nervous habits and awkward movements distract an audience. Fiddling or taking your glasses on and off, need to be recognised and controlled. Channel your nervous energy into body language which emphasises your speech.

Vocal impact

As a speaker, your voice is your stock-in-trade. Therefore, an excellent speaking voice has the following characteristics:

  • Its tone is pleasant and friendly
  • It appears natural, reflecting the personality and sincerity of the speaker
  • It has vitality, giving the impression of life and enthusiasm
  • It portrays shade of meaning. It has colour and expression
  • It is easily heard, having good volume, projection and articulation.

Emotional impact

Speak from your heart, not your head. Speak from your beliefs and convictions. These are personal. They are what make you unique. Build on your personality.

Persuading people requires a strong emotional appeal. Be sincere, enthusiastic, show empathy and understanding. It’s the feelings your speech generates which people will remember, not necessarily the impressive logic.

Be sincere. Mean what you say. Your aim is to touch each person with your presentation.

Be yourself, even if it means showing your vulnerability.

Be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm stimulates your audience sweeping them along with you.

Be empathetic. Let the audience feel you understand and are involved.

Be credible. If the audience believes that you are genuine, your talk becomes memorable, motivating, convincing, and successful.

After the speech

Stay a moment with your audience before returning to your seat and maintain eye contact. Smile and enjoy the applause. Avoid saying “thank you”; it’s the audience who thanks you.