Like good acting, good delivery of a presentation doesn’t draw attention to itself. You’ll need to develop your own unique style that blends in with your personality. When you try to imitate someone else’s style, the result will be awkward and unnatural. Your goal should be to create a sense of “presence” with the audience. Although excellent delivery can’t make up for poor content, poor delivery can sabotage excellent content.
In my workshops and seminars, my approach to the delivery phase of the presentation process is somewhat contrarian. Rather than going through a lengthy list of good delivery traits, I firmly believe that following just five guidelines eliminates 95% of all delivery problems.
1. Practice vocal variety
. That means periodically adjusting your pitch, rate and volume during the presentation. Good delivery resembles animated conversation, not reading aloud or reciting. The opposite of vocal variety is a monotone. Monotone delivery can have an almost hypnotic effect on an audience. Your goal should be engagement rather than hypnosis.
2. Eliminate vocalized pauses and filler words
. Presenters sometimes become uncomfortable with silence and fill the void with sounds such as “uh” and “uhm.” Filler words include commonly repeated words and phrases such as “you know,” “like,” “and,” “right” and “so.” They are distracting at best and credibility-killing at worst. Remember when Caroline Kennedy was mentioned as a possible candidate for Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate seat? Her speeches and interviews were filled with vocalized pauses. Whatever qualifications she possessed were eclipsed by her poor delivery.
3. Establish and maintain eye contact
. One advantage of good eye contact is the feedback you’ll receive from the audience. It also helps you appear more confident and persuasive. It’s a common belief in our culture that someone who won’t look directly at you while speaking is being evasive or has something to hide. Two common culprits include reading from notes or fixing attention on the slide show instead of the audience. Make certain you look at individuals in different parts of the room.
4. Make all movement purposeful
. Presenters sometime channel their nervous energy into ticks or movements. It’s fine to use gestures and move about the room as you interact with the audience, but once such movement becomes too repetitive, it serves as a distraction.
5. Speak loudly enough
. Everyone in the room should easily hear you. If a microphone is available, use it. It projects professionalism and saves your voice. If you don’t have access to a microphone, you’ll need to put enough energy in your voice that people aren’t straining to hear and understand you.
One of the best ways to improve your delivery is to record yourself practicing your presentation. Video is best, but use an audio recorder at the minimum. Video gives you the opportunity to catch distracting or unnatural gestures. It helps you refine your movement and posture. Audio alerts you to any filler words or vocalized pauses. Place the recording device far enough away to approximate the distance of your farthest audience member. You’ll be able to tell if you’re speaking loudly enough to be easily heard.
When you follow these five guidelines, you can make sure that your expertise isn’t diminished by your delivery.
©2011 Peak Communication Performance. Excerpted from Rainmaking Presentations: How To Grow Your Business by Leveraging Your Expertise, available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. Download the first chapter at www.RainMakingPresentations.com
. Affluent Magazine’s Presentation Expert, Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D., shows professionals how to design, develop and deliver effective presentations. When you book him to show your organization how to create more persuasive presentations, you’ll discover why better communication means more business. Contact him at Sommerville@RainMakingPresentations.com.