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How to Get Back to the Basics of Powerful Self-Presentation
by Chris King

We are not born with the ability to communicate brilliantly. It is a learned and practiced process. But once we master the basics of self-presentation, we will not only be able to effectively say what we have to say in half the time, our audiences will also listen to and remember it. So, let’s reexamine the basic techniques of building a strong foundation for our communication in all situations.

Use expression and animation. The first and foremost way to build expression and animation into a presentation is to care and feel good about what you are saying. A ho hum approach to any topic will not only bore the listeners, but will also indicate that you don’t really feel strongly about your topic. For example, I was once selling a high priced program that I thought was worth every penny. I sold many without difficulty. However, once it was pointed out to me that there existed a comparable product for half the price of the one I was selling, I couldn’t sell the first product successfully any longer. I had lost my expression and animation along with feeling good about that program.

Develop self-confidence and sincerity. If you believe in what you say, you will find that self-confidence and sincerity will follow. I had volunteered to present a program to a group of senior citizens about a controversial sin tax slated to help pay for the construction of a sports stadium. It had been passed, but there were many people who didn’t know the details. I started speaking, and the room erupted. A man in the back yelled out, “What are they paying you to tell us this garbage?” I answered with sincerity, “I am not being paid a penny to drive here (it was a distance) to tell you about the issues. I am here because I feel so strongly about the great outcomes that are going to occur because of this project. Let me tell you about them.” By the time I finished, audience members were rushing up to ask me if they could buy bonds to support the project.

Use appropriate body language and gestures. The best way to approach the question of what body language and gestures to use, is to relax and do what is comfortable for you. I have observed many speakers who try to rehearse gestures and they usually come across as robotic and unnatural. We don’t want to stand like a wooden statue in one spot with no movement at all, but we will look even more foolish if we dance around with no reason. If we present in the same way we talk conversationally, we will also relax our audience. For example, if we use gestures in regular conversation, they will fit into our presentations with ease. But if we force our gestures, we will make our audience uncomfortable. One caveat: don’t let your body language contradict what you are saying. For example, if you want agreement from the audience, make sure you are nodding your head, not shaking it “no.”

Maintain good eye contact. Focus on different audience members for several seconds at a time, and make sure you address all areas of the room. A distracting practice by some speakers is to either look down at their notes, up at their slides or overheads, or let their eyes dart around. Pick out those people around the rooms who are enjoying what you are saying and establish eye contact with them.

Maintain energy and enthusiasm throughout the presentation. If you like what you are talking about, it is easy to keep up your energy level and enthusiasm. I have warned about this before, but it is important to pick topics that you enjoy. Sometimes we are asked to speak about something that we aren’t excited about. I find, however, that if I do some serious research and learn something about that topic, I often become enthusiastic about it. If, however, you feel there is no way you can have energy for a particular topic, turn it down rather than making a lack-luster presentation.

Add emotion to your presentation. By allowing our feelings freedom, we will easily add emotional impact to our presentations. This doesn’t mean sharing too much of the emotional baggage that we all carry around, but letting the audience know that we have strong feelings. Just remember that the audience doesn’t serve as a replacement psychiatrist and couch, but does want to share emotions that touch and move them to action.

Speak the truth. The only way to establish credibility is to speak the truth. If someone asks a question for which you don’t have the answer, admit that you don’t know, but will find out. If there has been a mix-up or a mistake made, don’t try to cover up. People will listen to and respect a presenter who is honest and will admit to failings.

Use variations in the tone, level, and speed of your voice. There is nothing more sleep inducing than monotone speaking at only one level and speed. Think of performing with a musical instrument. Everyone is energized by variation. Practice using variations daily in conversation and over the telephone. It will soon become natural in front of an audience.

Add a smile and personalization to your presentations. By smiling and being yourself, you will win over the audience. When we share our stories and reveal who we are, they can’t help but warm up to us and like us.

Remember and practice these basics, and you will always be a winning and powerful presenter.

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