You can engage an audience with technique. You can also do so with warmth and authenticity. The great presenters call on both, in generous doses. Let me be clear from the outset – successful presentations require good content. But when mediocre content is delivered compellingly it can still have an impact. Great content delivered with no conviction or energy seldom has any impact at all.
In order to create that riveting impact, we can call on a limited number of tools. First, we need a sound belief that what we have to say is relevant, true and important. We need to believe our own message. But we should also believe in our ability to get that message out to our audience in a riveting manner. It is in this area which I wish to focus this article.
Generating a high percentage of eye contact with our audience is essential. When someone converses with you – where do they look? Into your eyes of course! The eyes are our most powerful sense, and the centre of attention when we speak to someone else. They create the critical connection of maintaining interest. Disengaged audience members are a dead giveaway – they disconnect by simply looking away, usually at an electronic device resting in the palm of their hand. By merely maintaining strong eye contact, it is less likely that people in the audience will lose interest.
The next tool is the skilful use of the voice. A message delivered with feeling at a moderate pace using inflection, good pausing and energetic emphasis is persuasive and compelling. By adding clear diction you can heighten the impact. By adding pauses you create intrigue. A well modulated voice is a beautiful instrument and a pleasure to listen to!
But are these three (belief, eyes and voice) the only connecting instruments at our disposal? Surely there must be other purveyors of energy and enthusiasm?
Perhaps the most overlooked contributor to a great presentation is the skilful use of gestures. It’s a tool we use naturally when telling a story or anecdote to friends over a meal. Opera singers and actors draw liberally on gestures to create a more descriptive performance – as do ballerinas. The use of movement and gestures actually generates energy causing the voice to intonate more, raising its volume. Interestingly, although gesturing requires some energy, in turn it generates energy to the voice!
This leads us to what may seem an obvious conclusion, but one that is so often overlooked.
Enthusiastic delivery is what often separates a good speech or presentation from a great one. In combination with authenticity it becomes irresistible. Enthusiasm can most certainly be manufactured by using those 3 Musketeers – belief, eyes and voice. But with the added spice of a D’Artagnan in the form of natural, compelling gestures – you’re sure to deliver a winning presentation, provided your content stands up too!
Besides, what would the 3 Musketeers have done without him anyway?