Do you deliver when you speak? Do you engage and connect physically as well as intellectually? It’s not enough just to prepare some remarks or show some slides. You’ve got to literally show up and deliver … with your whole body!
Here are 5 keys to being physically present and engaged with your audience:
Eyes. Use your eyes to connect. Look around the room at everyone, being very careful not to get stuck on one person or one section of a room. I’ve often heard the “Z” formation recommended; start by looking in the back corner of the room and slowly allow your gaze to move forward on the diagonal, from side to side, as if making a Z with your eyes until you reach the front. Then do it again …
Hands. For some reason, talking with your hands has a bad rap. It’s okay to talk with your hands, as long as your gestures aren’t wildly distracting … and as long as your hands aren’t blocking your face. If it’s natural for you to use your hands for emphasis, then go for it. Better to be animated than stiff.
Voice. If your body and your visuals are the video, your voice is the audio. Play it! Use pace, volume, and intonation to keep the soundtrack moving and interesting. Use silence too. Turn off the audio for a few seconds of pause to recapture attention. Being able to modulate your voice while speaking, versus droning through a presentation, makes you appear confident and in command of the material. And it’s a heck of a lot easier on the ears of your audience.
Body. Don’t cross your arms. Don’t jiggle the coins in your pocket. Don’t play with your hair. Yada yada yada. You know all of the don’ts. How about the do’s? Do use your body … move toward the audience, lean into the audience, have all gestures open to and embracing of the audience. If at a podium with a fixed mic, be on the balls of your feet, reaching toward the audience. It’s a lot more engaging than the slouched podium lean, or the side-to-side sway, or the hanging back on heels stance.
Movement. Use the room. If you have space to move around, and proximity to a fixed mic isn’t an issue, then use your floor space as if it’s a stage. Move into and around your audience. Be super present and in their face and space, and you will have their attention.
Communications Coach at SmartMouth Communications
SmartMouth Founder and Principal Beth Noymer Levine is a Communications Coach who is emerging as one of the country’s leading voices on how to prepare and deliver speeches and presentations that actually work for both the audience and the speaker.