If your body is declaring that you are not sincere in what you are saying then your credibility decreases and there is no way your message will have the impact it should have. So everything that implies relaxed, enthusiastic confidence and sincerity is vital now.
Think about the tone of your message. Is it relaxed, conversational? Then make your body language relaxed. Is it passionate, strong and powerful, then create body language that conveys that power. Is it alert and enthusiastic, then your body language will be upright and reflecting that enthusiasm.
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Well, are they?
If your words are on the screen or sheet of paper, then let the audience read for themselves. This will have enormous impact, especially if your audience is used to presenters slavishly following the test on their visuals.
You are presenting your message verbally, and visuals are just that – images or groups or words that support your message. They are not the message itself. If necessary, you may have to explain this, first, because many audiences have been trained by presenters who cover their inadequacies by using their visuals as the message.
This may just be why you will make an impact if you can present without using this method. You will be different. You will be seen as so much more confident and competent as a person.
But underneath all of that is the fact that your audience is not illiterate. Don’t annoy them by reading to them what they can read themselves.
The first piece of public speaking that I can remember doing was in about the second year of school. Every year of school, we learned several pieces of poetry by rote, wrote them in our best handwriting in our poetry books and recited them together each morning. I loved that poetry – loved the writing, the sound of the words and the way they fitted together in a new form of speaking. But in the second year of school, it was decided that each person in the class would recite the poem to the whole group. We were instructed to stand out the front, in the middle, with our hands clasped together with the finger tips of each hand nestled against the fingers of the other – “cupped” I think, is the word for it.
I don’t remember being nervous, but remember standing there. I don’t remember what the teacher may have said was good about my presentation, but in perverse and fairly normal human style, I have never forgotten being told that I had swayed while I spoke.
And that was the beginning of years of fear of public speaking. Obviously perfection was expected here and obviously, too, my body could not be trusted to be perfect without my strict supervision. By Year seven, the public speaking exercises had graduated to coming to the door of the classroom, knocking and asking “Are you Nelly Reddy?” That was too much! I would discover a sudden need to go to the bathroom –and stay there. It got to the stage where the teacher asked my mother if I was having some sort of health issue!
My love of language and an ability to use it reasonably well meant I built a successful career in public speaking at high school, but always at the expense of suffering horribly from nerves. There was still the expectation of a performance, and the degree of perfection against a set of criteria was always forefront in every experience.
I have worked hard over the intervening years to overcome the fear, because despite it all, I still love public speaking. And one of the best feelings these days is the feeling of being able to stand confidently on a stage and have a conversation with the audience. Another best feeling is knowing that that is the common trend in public speaking today as well. I watch “Show and Tell” in primary school and watch as the teachers make each child feel comfortable, supported, encouraged and never judged. I read about public speaking and see the growing number of people discussing this need to be perfect and what a burden it is, and how unnecessary.
The concept I love most is the idea of the performance/perfectionism as placing a wall between yourself as a speaker and your audience. Perhaps it should be refereed to as a screen, in the way that a screen holds a movie or video separate from its audience.
And of course the antidote is to break down the wall, take yourself out of the screen and see yourself as having a conversation with your audience. You can be so much more authentic as you be yourself in conversation rather than a performing persona. You can be so much more engaging as you interact, in conversation, with your audience. And as a speaking consultant I can now encourage my clients to be themselves – their best selves, mind you, but still their authentic selves.
© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication. please do. but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com