The Best Weapon In A Presenter's Arsenal

During my inaugural Iran trip in June/July 2009 I made 6 presentations amounting to 2 presentations each at 3 separate conferences. In each case, a large percentage of the audience preferred to don headphones and listen to the simultaneous Farsi translation of the interpreter.

This creates a whole new ball game for the speaker. It means that you need to be aware that much of your colloquial humour does not translate into another language, so you have to customise your examples and stories so that your audience will relate to them.

But imagine this. You come to your humorous punchline. You pause for laughter. There is none. As you take a breath to start again, the audience erupts into laughter! Even with simultaneous translation, there is a slight delay, particularly if you speak fast.

Your natural delivery pace may cause you a further problem in that the translator may not be able to keep up with you and may have to miss out some of your content or make some up: “The speaker thinks he’s being funny – so laugh now please!” The lesson is to speak slowly and more deliberately. But the question is, does this only apply when your presentation is being translated?

From time to time I video my speeches to see and hear exactly what my audience is experiencing. Invariably, I identify parts of the speech where I speak too fast, and it’s often the parts where I’m making a strong point or really getting excited about a concept or story. Because my head is in my content, I’m guilty of letting slip important technical areas of presentation that can have a significant impact on the power and effectiveness of the message being conveyed.

I have discovered that the most powerful weapon in a presenter’s arsenal is the ability to speak slowly and clearly. By doing so your diction should be better and you are able to use more inflection and warmth in your voice. People who may be listening in their 2nd or 3rd language will find it easier to follow you. Because you are not going like an express train, you make it easier for your audience to assimilate what you say and your message is more compelling.

There are very few speakers whom I’ve heard who wouldn’t be better if they simply slowed down a little. Of course, the most important reason has not been mentioned yet. What is the objective of the talk? So that people will take in, understand and perhaps act on what you’ve said.

Therefore, being audible and clear are vital components of meeting that need

As a presentation skills coach, one of the top 3 action areas for my course delegates is just that – “SLOW DOWN PLEASE!” There are far worse ways of spending your prep time – like getting that last slide 100% right!

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