It's 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon and you're delivering
an important presentation to one of your company's most prestigious clients.
get off to a good start, your audiovisual equipment is working
and there's no need to refer to your notes; you know this
speech inside and out. You're a little nervous but that's
to be expected. Besides, you have your trusty podium to hide
behind between PowerPoint slides. You know it's important
to connect with the audience so as you go through your presentation
you glance at the picture on the back wall every so often
– a little trick you picked up – to look like you're making
Ten minutes into your "awesome"
presentation you ask a question and no one responds. You look up from your PowerPoint
show and glance around the room only to see bobbing heads, glazed-over eyes
and…hey, the president of the company has dozed off. Oh no, it looks like instead
of "knocking 'em dead," you've knocked 'em out!
Unfortunately many people think that once they've organized all the information
they need for a presentation, their work is over. In reality preparing is only
half the work. The real work is holding people's interest long enough to get
your point across. You can write the greatest speech in history but if you can't
keep your audience's attention, how will they ever know?
To ensure your message is received
loud and clear, try paying attention to body language – both your own and
that of your audience.
You can greatly improve your presentations by simply paying attention to the
messages you send your audience with your body language. Are you standing
in the same spot for the entire presentation? Is your voice flat and uninteresting?
Or maybe you aren't using any hand gestures to get your point across. All
of these things can make a presentation a little boring.
Sulliman, Assistant Professor, Communication at UCCB, says
one of the keys to keeping your audience interested is making
eye contact with your entire audience, not just one or two
people. "This draws the audience into your presentation and
allows you to make an interpersonal connection with them."
Remember to move around! You
don't have to do cartwheels, but do shift from one area of the room to another
periodically. You might also try moving forward so you're closer to your audience
instead of hiding out behind your podium.
Don't speak in a monotone voice
as if you're reciting your speech word for word. Sulliman suggests that you
be enthusiastic and animated. Speak to your audience in a conversational manner
just as you would to someone in a business meeting.
the Silent Signals
You can also improve your presentation by noticing the messages your audience
sends back to you through their own body language. Check out their reactions
to what you're saying. Are people nodding their heads in agreement or are they
just nodding off? If they look puzzled, stop and allow them to ask questions.
Watch for signals of boredom
or misinterpretation. Are they leaning toward you to listen or are they sitting
back with their arms folded? When members of your audience are slouched back
in their seats letting their eyes wander it usually means they're uninterested
in what you're saying. But if they're sitting back with their arms folded
across their chest, staring at you, they may have been offended by something
you've said. If you're paying close attention, you can catch this and clarify
your statement without any negative feelings.
The best speakers make you feel
as if they're having a normal conversation – not spewing out a memorized speech.
So relax and remember these tips – they may just help you avoid turning your
presentation into nap time.
To learn more about body language,
Celeste Sulliman, PhD. Assistant Professor, Communication,
University College of Cape Breton. Personal communication.
December 7, 2000.
1. Source: Merriam-Webster
Collegiate Webster Dictionary (Online). 2000.
How to Keep People