“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner, writer, and theologian
Perhaps more important than the words you say is how you say them. The tone of a speech or business presentation is crucial to engage your audience, to persuade them, and to get them to get out of their chairs to take action.
Words make us think, but it is tone that makes us feel. And ultimately it is how we feel that determines if we’re all in for a cause or committed to follow-through with an assignment.
When we manage people, it’s easy to slip into command-and-control tones. These tones can dampen commitment and damage trust with your audience. Business leaders must be mindful of the following tones and the sometimes unintended messages they can send:
Parental: I know best. I’m the boss so just do what I say.
Legal: I’m being really precise because I’m more worried about being avoiding a lawsuit than communicating with you.
Directive: I want you to perform these tasks. I’m the boss and I don’t have to explain why.
Traditional Business: I’m phony, impersonal and disconnected from you.
Informational: I’m more concerned with public appearance than communicating with you.
Promotional: I’m using pseudo-excitement to try to sell you something you probably don’t want.
In my 20-plus years working with leaders of large corporations, I’ve always found a tone that connotes a trusted partnership works best. Whether you are speaking to customers, shareholders, your own employees, contractors or vendors, you should speak with a tone that says “You are a valued business partner and we’re in this together.”
Striking the right tone can make all the difference. Find a partnership tone that works best for you. And when you do, you’ll move beyond being a mere manager and be on the path to becoming a great leader.
I was flipping through the TV channels recently and came across a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author reading excerpts from her best-selling book on C-Span. The stories she told were extremely interesting and compelling but I couldn’t help but cringe over the sound of her voice. No doubt, she was an expert on the subject she was discussing but in my expert opinion as a professional speaker/coach, she lacked presentation skills. I continued to listen to her while critiquing her communication skills in my mind.
Have you ever been to a conference or meeting where the expert speaking either made you yawn (more than once) or used words you would have to use a dictionary to look up? I’ve seen and heard it time and time again. There are lots of speakers who are very knowledgeable and present interesting information but sometimes their presentation skills are less than average.
Truth be told, many experts in their fields don’t really have what it takes to command an audience. They know their subject very well but, often times, don’t know how to communicate effectively. According to Kathy Caprino of Ella Communications, “Experts simply fail to engage us on an emotional, heartfelt level – they don’t connect in a personal way, or give the sense that they truly care a whit about the audience and its ability to productively use the vast information they know and share. In the end, their lack of a human connection makes their presentations feel overwhelming and unsettling – they push us away with all data, facts and statistics, and no heart and soul.”
And if you can’t hold a live audience, chances are you would really bomb out during a radio, TV or podcast interview.
You might be the queen or king of the social media circles or written a best-selling book but the written word is dramatically different than the spoken word.
Presentation Skills You Can Develop
Here are some speaker tips for conducting a good news media interview or to speak to a live audience:
Speak with passion about your subject. Don’t overhype – but let the audience know how much you truly enjoy what you do.
Smile — even if you’re doing a radio interview, the listener can hear it in your voice.
Let your personality shine through. This falls in line with the passion, but also allows your audience to see various sides of you depending on the topic you’re discussing. No one likes serious all the time—especially if your topic is light-hearted in nature.
Be aware of your body language. Frowning is a turn-off – unless you are doing it in the context of making a point about something negative. Gesturing naturally is great but looking like you don’t know what to do with your hands will make you look nervous and unprofessional.
Don’t use $10 words. No one is going to be impressed with all the big words you know. But if you do use them, make sure you can explain them in layman’s terms.
Gesture even if you’re doing radio or a podcast. People who sit stiff as a board will sound more robotic than human.
Learn how to pace yourself. Speaking too fast or too slowly will have your audience tuning out. You might want to practice with a friend to see what they think about your pacing.
Remember, your voice creates an impression. And just like appearances, it could be a lasting one in your favor or cut down on the number of requests for you as a presenter.
Practice, practice, practice — Join a public speaking group in your area or hire a public speaking coach to help you.
By following these tips, you can be a subject-matter expert and an expert public speaker as well. And that’s a powerful combination.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Beverly Mahone is a veteran journalist, author, coach, and professional speaker. After more than 30 years in radio and TV news, Beverly created BAM Enterprises. In addition to working with employers to help them understand how to recruit and train millennials, she also provides professional speaker training. Beverly has appeared on numerous radio and TV talk programs including MSNBC. She has been featured in the New York Times and has written five books including the Amazon Best Sellers How to Get on the News Without Committing Murder and The Baby Boomer/Millennial Divide: Making it Work at WORK. She has written for or been covered by the Huffington Post, Forbes, and Newsweek magazine.
You’ve practiced your speech a million times in your office, in the car and even in the shower. You’re ready to deliver it. You step to the stage and someone hands you a microphone. But you haven’t practiced with a microphone. The first thing you do is bump the microphone against your body making a loud noise that irritates your audience. You nearly trip over the microphone wire. Then you hold it up to your mouth and everyone can hear you breathing loudly into it. You begin to speak and your voice is far too loud. Your speech is off to a bad start before you have even begun.
So, how do you avoid microphone mishaps? Follow these tips to master the microphone when public speaking:
Find out in advance what type of microphone you’ll be using – handheld, lavaliere, lectern-mounted?
If you know you’re going to speak with a handheld microphone, practice with one in your hand (or at least with some similarly shaped object in your hand) so that you get used to gesturing properly.
If possible, practice your complete speech with the sound system to uncover any problems well before your presentation.
Arrive at least 30 minutes early and perform a sound check. Just saying “check one, check two” isn’t good enough. Say a portion of the actual speech so that the sound technician can equalize the range of your voice.
Determine the appropriate distance from your mouth the microphone needs to be to sound good.
Beware of distracting vocal noises (popping sharp consonants or heavy breathing) or nonverbal sounds (hitting the lectern or ruffling papers) that might be amplified.
Get as familiar with the microphone as you can. Where is the on and off switch?
Be careful not to make private comments. Always assume a microphone is on.
If you will be speaking with a lavaliere microphone, wear a belt to clip the transmitter on or have a pocket to put it in. You also may want to wear a suit jacket or a blazer to hide the wire.
Use a high-quality microphone that doesn’t make you sound muffled.
A microphone can be a great tool to help your audience hear the nuances of your voice, which can help you to better connect with them. If you follow the tips outlined in this post, your microphone will enhance your presentation and allow you to deliver a great speech.
I was honored to be spotlighted as an adjunct faculty member at the Art Institute of Phoenix in a recent article. I am currently teaching two public speaking courses to the incredibly talented students there.
The Art Institute teaches photography, film production, graphic and web design, interior design, game art and design, and culinary arts. They are a fascinating bunch of creative minds and I enjoy helping them discover public speaking and business communication skills that I know will help them throughout their personal and professional lives. Read the Article
Whether to use PowerPoint or other presentation software is an important decision when planning out a speech or business presentation (as discussed in Public Speaking Tip #34). If you do decide to create presentation slides make sure they are done correctly and convey the right image for you as a public speaker or business presenter. You can get some great ideas for content and slide design from SlideShare.net (as discussed in Public Speaking Tip #35).
I love the following two videos for the Do’s and Don’ts of using PowerPoint and other presentation software. The first video, done by comedian Don McMillan, is mainly for fun but does make some great points about what not to do. The second video, done by the Presenters Toolkit, gives some great tips to keep in mind when making slides. I hope you enjoy them both.
Sometimes it can be challenging to think of how to convey an idea visually for a PowerPoint slide for your speech or business presentation. One great place I get ideas from is SlideShare.net, which is now part of LinkedIn. As the name suggests, SlideShare.net contains thousand and thousands of slide decks.
On SlideShare.net, you can search for any topic and usually find hundreds if not thousands of slides on that subject that might help your speech or business presentation. While not all of the examples on SlideShare.net are great, there are many gems that just may spark the visual idea you need. You also may find content ideas you haven’t thought of.If you’re in a rut or looking to
If you’re in a rut or looking to take your presentation slides up a notch, SlideShare.net is a good place to spend a few minutes.
Should you use PowerPoint or other presentation software in public speaking or business presentations? My rule is this: if slides enhance your speech or business presentation, then, by all means, use them.
Sometimes we need a photo, a chart, a graph or some visual representation to better understand a concept or to make an emotional impact. A well-done PowerPoint can help you convey important information. And given that most people are visual learners, it can be a powerful complement to your presentation. But a poorly done PowerPoint can harm your credibility as a public speaker or business presenter.
If you use PowerPoint, it must not become your on-screen presentation outline and you should not simply read bullet points to your audience.
Another consideration in deciding whether to use PowerPoint or not is the size of the screen your slides will be projected onto. Is the screen too small to make a visual impact? Also, what about the lighting — will you have to turn off some or all of the lights in order to see the screen? You don’t want to be standing in the dark. If you are trying to engage your audience, they’ll likely need to see you.
You’re the Star of Your Presentation
You need to be the star of your own speech or business presentation. PowerPoint and other visual aids should be cast in supporting roles. Sometimes writing on a flip chart or a whiteboard can be more engaging to your audience. Even more engaging is instructing the audience to draw something or asking them to write important information on their own notebooks. You may want to think of something creative, as demonstrated in Public Speaking Tip #32.
The Choice is Yours
You’ll need to make a decision on the pros and cons of using PowerPoint or other presentation software for your speech or business presentation. Don’t automatically think you have to use presentation software. Some of the greatest speeches of all time didn’t use PowerPoint. Consider creative alternatives.Once you’ve thought everything through and weighed all the options, you will emerge with a more effective presentation.
Once you’ve thought everything through and weighed all the options, you will emerge with a more effective presentation. And your audience will thank you.
Visual aids (such as the one described in Public Speaking Tip #32) and handout sheets can be a great enhancement to a speech or a business presentation. But they also can be a giant distraction if they aren’t handled correctly.
Once a visual aid or handout starts going around the room during a presentation, the audience’s attention is diverted to the object or handout. Much of what a speaker is saying will be lost while visual aids and handouts are being passed around.If you do distribute a visual aid, it is usually best to do s0 at the end of your presentation. That way, you won’t distract your audience during your presentation. Once an item is being passed around, all eyes are focused on it and not on the presenter. This is true for handout sheets as well.
It is usually better to distribute visual aids or handouts at the end of your presentation. In the case of a visual aid, you might want to show it to your audience and let them know that it will be available to them after the presentation is over. Here is an example a presenter showing what acupuncture needles look like in the midst of her informative speech. In the case of handout sheets, you might want to announce that they will be available at the end of your talk and briefly describe what’s in them.
However you use them, make sure your visual aids and handout sheets are enhancements to your speech or presentation and not a distraction. By making them available at the end, you will have a better chance of keeping your audience’s attention and delivering a more memorable presentation.
A student in one of my public speaking classes recently gave a persuasive speech about the declining honey bee population. At the end of her presentation, she distributed a straw filled with honey to each member of the audience. Attached to the straw was signage that read “Save the Honeybee.”
The Honey Bee straw was a nice ending to a wonderfully presented speech. It also was a great reminder that in public speaking and business presentations, applying a little creativity in your choice of a visual aid can help you stand out and help make your point more memorable.
Credibility is the most important characteristic in all communications, especially public speaking and presentation. Without credibility, nothing else you do matters — not the clothes you wear, the words you use, the passion you bring to the presentation, nothing.
This has always been true, but more so now than ever. Thanks to reality TV, YouTube, Facebook Live, Snapchat and a thousand other contributing factors, perceived authenticity and sincerity have risen to the top of the way we evaluate the credibility of all message, including speeches and business presentations. Messages that are not deemed authentic or sincere are immediately dismissed as unimportant by audiences.
In public speaking and business presentations, if you don’t have credibility, you don’t have anything.