Present Your Message with
Power and Pizzazz
By Della Menechella
If you’re ready to kick your career or business up to the next level, then make it a goal to become a powerful presenter. People view savvy communicators as being more capable, intelligent, and knowledgeable than those individuals who have difficulty in communicating their ideas. You can quickly gain the status of an expert in your field when you are able to present your ideas effectively.
Although many things go into giving a successful talk, I’d like to focus on one area that is very easy to apply – using body movements and gestures. When you use body movements and gestures appropriately, your presentation takes on a certain sense of aliveness that is often hard to accomplish when you use words alone.
Harness the Power of Gestures
Gestures include your posture, the movement of your eyes, hands, face, arms and head, as well as your entire body. They help to support or reinforce a particular thought or emotion. If our gestures support our statements, we are communicating with a second sense. People tend to understand and remember messages better when more than one sense is reached.
Winston Churchill was a master at using gestures to powerfully bring home his point. During World War II, Churchill rallied the citizens of Great Britain to continue their fight against overwhelming odds. He often visited the neighborhoods of London, which had been devastated by bombs and walked through them with his fingers held up in the sign of a “V”. This victory sign accompanied his famous message, "Never give in. Never, never, never give in." This gesture so powerfully communicated Churchill’s message that soon people gained greater resolve to continue fighting whenever they saw the victory sign.
Another reason that using appropriate gestures is so critical to your presentation is that communication does not just consist of words. Less than 10% of the words we use in speaking gets through to others. On the other hand, over 55% of our body language is communicated to others very clearly. Whether you are trying to sell your product or service to a client or you are trying to persuade a group of people to change their behavior, it is critical that your words and gestures match. Many people have sabotaged their messages because their words were saying one thing, while their bodies were saying the exact opposite.
Can you think of a time when someone told you that he would be able to do something while his head was shaking no? Which did you believe, the words or the gesture? When your body movements are congruent with your words, your message will have a very powerful impact on your audience.
Make the Most Out of Movements
People will begin to make judgments about you as soon as you stand up. The time to begin using effective body movements is when you walk to your position in front of a group. Stand up tall and walk with a strong posture. Let your body communicate that you have something important to say and the audience needs to hear it. If your posture is slouched, they will feel that you aren’t convinced about your message and they will begin doubting you before you have uttered a single word.
When you get to the front, take a deep breath, calmly look at your entire audience and smile. One of the biggest mistakes presenters make is to begin talking as soon as they get up to the front, or even worse, as they are walking there. When you take time to look at your audience before you speak, you begin to establish that critical connection with them. You also give the audience sufficient time to focus on you and what you are about to say.
Look directly at the faces of your audience members, not over their heads. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of speaking. An easy way to get over stage fright is to look at the faces of individual audience members and just talk to that one person instead of the entire audience. Rotate the people you talk to – someone on the left, someone towards the middle, a person on the right, someone in the front, etc. This will help you maintain rapport with the entire group, while allowing you to feel at ease.
A further advantage of maintaining good eye contact is that it will help you gauge how your message is coming across to the group. If you are trying to explain something and members of the audience give you blank stares, then you need to adjust your words so they can better understand you.
Like Winston Churchill, you should strive to incorporate gestures into your talk. People naturally use gestures in conversations. They are not on the spot, so they easily move their arms and hands and make facial expressions to illustrate the points they are trying to make. However, an amazing thing happens when people stand up in front of a group to speak. They suddenly think, "Oh no! What am I going to do with these things attached to my shoulders?" and they either don't move them at all or they move them awkwardly. Gestures should be a natural extension of who we are. Presenters should strive to be themselves. They should be as spontaneous with their movements as if they were talking to their family or friends.
Practice Makes Natural
A good way to be comfortable with gestures is to know your speech well. Several of the most outstanding speakers offer the same piece of advice: "The key to effectively using gestures is to know your material so well, to be so well prepared, that your gestures will flow naturally." Practice your speech and know it well so that you can enjoy sharing your message with others.
Become a master at using your body to support your words. Have fun with gestures, be yourself, and you will certainly present your message with power and pizzazz.
Della Menechella is a speaker and trainer who helps organizations achieve greater success by improving the performance of their people. She is a contributing author to Thriving in the Midst of Change and the author of the videotape The Twelve Commandments of Goal Setting. She can be reached at 732-985-1919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to free Peak Performance Pointers e-zine - send blank e-mail to mailto:email@example.com.
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