Want to engage audiences and speak with charisma? Here are five simple techniques to make your presentations unforgettable.
How comfortable are you in front of a public speaking audience? And what are you hoping to achieve?
If you're prepared to deliver information and get off stage, you'll probably achieve an average level of success. But if you want to captivate listeners, be memorable—and most important of all—move audiences to action . . .
Well, now you're talking!
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So assuming you have something important to say and you're talking to an audience that needs to hear it, here are five performance-based techniques to speak with charisma and impact.
Five Ways to Engage Audiences and be a More Memorable Speaker
1. Make strong eye contact. Simply put, no behavior is as fundamental to persuasion as looking at the person you're talking to. When was the last time you trusted someone who wouldn't look you in the eye?
So actively look at and relate to your audience when you speak. When I say "actively," I mean let your gaze linger for a half-second to a second. Don't "flick" your eyes at your listeners. They'll like you more, they'll decide that you're honest; and most important, they'll be more willing to be influenced by you. And ignore the silly advice about looking at individuals for specific amounts of time, or making eye contact with one person per sentence, etc.
Avoid people's gaze, on the other hand, just because you're nervous—or weakest of excuses, you're busy reading your notes—and you'll have virtually no chance of changing their thinking or behavior. There's an acting technique for dramatically improving your eye contact that will help you achieve the right level of influence.
2. Have fun. Now there's a novel concept in public speaking! Somehow, we've imbued speaking in public with an aura of inconvenience, horror, and even torture—as though the entire experience belongs in a Stephen King novel.
But think about your own experiences as an audience member. Are you more comfortable listening to a speaker who's grimly carrying on, or one who seems to be enjoying himself or herself?
When you speak with verve, you broadcast a completely different message than "I'm doing hard work here." Instead, your audience sees a person who not only has something valuable to say, but appreciates the opportunity to say it. It must be good stuff—look at how much he or she likes talking about it! Pretty soon, they're enjoying ourselves as well.
3. Smile. As public speakers, we just don't smile enough. Smiling is a prerequisite to establishing trust with audiences, only slightly less important than eye contact. At the very least, iit's evidence of the enjoyment I mentioned above. And do you know about the health benefits of smiling?
In speaking situations where you feel a smile is inappropriate, "open" your countenance by assuming a more pleasant expression, raising your cheekbones. As an illustration of what I mean by this, look at the famous painting American Gothic—that's the one of the sour-looking farmer with the pitchfork standing next to his sister. Now compare it with the Mona Lisa. There's a lady who knew how to raise her cheekbones, and look at how successful she's been!
4. Energize your voice. Have you ever had to strain to hear a speaker? Soft-talkers and under-energized presenters make us do too much work. Worse, a speaker like that seems distant, and we feel somehow that we've been left out of the loop.
You need always to generate enough vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room, including the people in the back and those that are hard of hearing. Remember also that your vocal energy must change in different spaces: the larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice. (Obviously, don't increase your volume if you're being miked.) In spaces that echo, you'll have to speak more slowly so you don't override your own speech.
When you project sufficient energy in a presentation, you make everything easier for your listeners. They feel they can relax instead of working overtime to do part of your job for you. Apart from that benefit, you really need to pay attention in all of your speaking assignments to the link between your voice and business success.
5. Be aware of your nonverbal messages. Visuals have tremendous power in public speaking—and the most important visual is you. What your body tells the audience is no less critical to your success than what your voice and the words are saying.
Keep two factors in mind concerning nonverbals: (1) consider how you can give physical expression to what you're saying. And (2) make your words and gestures congruent, i.e., use body language that matches what you're saying. (An example of a noncongruent message: Shaking your head back and forth as you're saying "Yes.")
Learn the key body language techniques for public speaking. Practice them using a mirror or video camera. Then forget about them when you speak. Your focus and all your attention should be on your message and getting it across to your listeners. If you've internalized the skills of body language, they'll be there for you without any calculated thought on your part.
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