[Editor’s Synopsis:

This article is dedicated to providing the keys to an effective presentation. The focus is to draw attention to the speakers Voice as well as body language and how they relate to the audience. The following is 1605 words.]

Tips for Your Next Presentation:

IT’S SHOW TIME!

By Joe Curcillo

You pause in quiet reflection: In your head, you review everything you are about to do. All you have studied and rehearsed will soon see the light of day; your innermost self will be splayed before the public. You will be judged for your efforts.

The crowd seems attentive as you begin to speak, but can you hold their attention for the duration? Will they find it in their hearts and minds to observe and listen?

You have spoken. Each word flowed as evidence of your ample preparation. But you know in the end, it is you alone who will be judged. The reaction is now in the hands of the people you worked so hard to impress. Did they feel involved? Did they understand the message? You are done, and there is no second chance. The moment has arrived.

Will they find your client guilty of first-degree murder? Will the innocent man who is looking to you for his freedom instead be sentenced to death?

Such is the life of a trial lawyer.

I trust the next speech you give from the platform will not be a matter of life and death, but I know it feels like that every time. As a speaker, I know the final applause, or lack thereof, can feel either like a complete acquittal or a death sentence.

The message must be clear and understandable.

The message must be clear to the speaker and only then, it will be clear to the audience.  As you scripting each and every word in detail, the message will become refined.  Focus on the story you have to tell.  Allow the speech to become a part of you. Then, you will be able to deliver it with feeling and meaning.  See it in your head before it reaches your lips; thus, internalizing it.  Then, you will know your message the way you can visualize the roads you travel each day from your office to home.

As your confidence grows, the journey will become second nature. Then, prepare yourself for delivery.

 

What message are you sending?

Think about the last time you asked for directions from a bystander. I trust you instinctively concluded whether the individual was a good or bad source of guidance based upon the certainty with which they spoke and how they acted while speaking to you.

So ask yourself, what message are you subconsciously sending as your words fall from your lips?   Some suggestions to improve what the audience hears from your actions include:

Speech

  • Your Tone should be comforting and convey trust. As when saying: “Jump on in. The water is fine.” The more you internalize your content, the closer you will come to a balanced trusting tone. Speak as you would to a trusted friend.
  • Use Emphasis when you are making a point that is at the core of your message. It will focus the attention of the listener and allow then to recognize the diamonds and emeralds you are sharing.
  • The Pause is the greatest weapon we have to reinforce the importance of a passage we delivered. It allows people to absorb our point and prepare for what is to come.  It also allows the speaker to think about their next words.
  • Clarity seems obvious, but cannot be overlooked. It includes articulation and word choice. Speak using a vocabulary to which your audience can relate. If your topic includes technical words or industry related jargon, take a moment to define the words you use. It shows your understanding as well as keeps the whole audience with you.
  • Volume is important if you want to be heard, but it is also can be used in conjunction with tone to create emphasis and melody to insure the audience stays with you as you lead them on your journey. Also, it keeps you from sounding monotonous and boring.

Body

  • Leaning on the podium is bad, unless you want to lean on the podium. Yes, there are moments where leaning on the podium as you lower your voice can make the audience feel like they are in on a secret, but accidentally leaning can look too casual.
  • Firmly Grasping the Podium as you speak sends the message that the podium is your security blanket, and you are hiding behind it.
  • Drooping Posture –by dropping your shoulders or slouching – will send the audience the signal there’s just too much responsibility resting up on your shoulders. They may not trust you believing the burden of your message is weighing to heavy upon you.
  • Holding your Arms Behind the Back could indicate you are not in touch with others or you’re hiding something.

Arms

  • Folding your arms across your chest can create the image you are self-protective. Avoid the ill-timed crossing of your arms would convey the message “I am closed off,” or “I am hiding something.”
  • Open arms will send the impression you are open and inviting. People will feel the comfort of the hug associated with open arms.

Eyes

  • Make Eye Contact. Even the people in the back of the room need love. Divide the room into sections in your mind and randomly look into the eyes of people everywhere in the room rather than just the front row.
  • Looking down at notes gives the impression you do not know what you are doing. Keep your notes – if you use notes – in a position where an occasional glance will put you back on track.

How well do you listen?

If you allow audience interaction, or you take questions from the floor, be aware of how you are listening.  Some ways to show interest, or avoid showing a lack thereof, include:

  • Holding Your Chin is it common posture for curiosity or that one is thinking. Unfortunately, holding your chin might also send a message you’re feeling insecure or inferior.
  • Relaxed Arms show you are comfortable with the speaker as well as the question being asked. Much like keeping open arms during delivery, you are showing comfort as the listener.
  • Scratching the Top Your Head will definitely send a message you are confused.
  • Placing your fingertips together as if in prayer is a gesture people use when they are in a position of power. Interestingly enough, this position is used frequently to show power, but is often read as “this person is not as confident as they want you to believe.”
  • Holding Your Thumb in the middle of your clenched fist can convey to the audience you are in distress. It is a much better solution to keep your hand relaxed and open. Do not keep the fingers closed tightly.
  • Stiff Flat Hands send a message you are not budging on your position; you’re saying you are going to dominate. You will recognize this gesture as many politicians use it during speechmaking. Specifically, George W. Bush comes to mind.

The more comfortable you become with your talk, and the more entrenched in your soul the speech becomes, the more your body will naturally show the mannerisms that fit with the words you use.

Be Authentic and Fresh.

In 1993, my longtime friend and mentor, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, hired me for my first speaking engagement. A few days before the engagement, Charlie asked me to stop by his house. As we were walking across his yard, he looked at me and asked, “Are you ready?” I assured him I was almost there, but I would review the presentation one more time before the event. He looked at me, hit me rather hard, and said, “There is no need to review. Either the message is in your heart, or you are not ready.”

Whether it was Charlie’s punch or his words that jarred me most is irrelevant. The result was I recognized the value of a message born in the heart; I learned the value of being original and authentic.

Ideas for staying fresh and original are as unique as the person implementing the method. I have seen some great ideas. To mention a few:

  • Real Life Experiences should be incorporated into your talk. Think about stories you have told offstage that define who you are. Maybe it is a story you told on a first date to win over your spouse, or maybe to the story you told during a job interview. Think about those stories that are personal to you, and adapt them to stage.
  • Focus on your life, and the events that make you original and different from every other person in the world. Mentors and teachers have helped each of us become who we are in life. Make your teachers proud by being true to yourself, not by copying the teacher.
  • Lucky Charms? No, not for luck, but to remind yourself of your past, of a moment in your life that makes you smile. Thus, the lucky charm will anchor you in reality by reminding you of the story associated with the childhood trinket.
  • Play a Game. Personally, I have always played a game to keep me anchored in reality. I randomly choose a word from the dictionary before each gig and challenge myself to work that random word into my speech. By challenging myself, there is always something different and new in what I have to say.

I invite you to find your own challenge to keep it real. Refresh your talk with thoughts and challenges reminding you of the inner you.  Allow your words to flow from your mind, heart and soul in harmony.

At least you know that no one will go to prison if you fail.

  • JOE CURCILLO is a speaker, consultant and entertainer who focusses on his passion for improving leadership, communication & culture with a Unifying Vision. He is the author of the Best Seller Getting to ‘US’: Discover the Ability to Lead Your Team to Any Result You Desire, and Don’t be a Hamster: 30 Tips to Spark the Imagination of Busy People.