Improving Your Presentation
In our face-to-face (F2F) communication we use the volume and tone of voice, our body language as well as the actual words we speak. Online, we can use words and ways of writing that convey tone and body language.
This tip sheet focuses on F2F use of voice and body language. There is a separate tip sheet on voice and body language online. But the concepts and reasons for using voice and body language are consistent between the two environments.
Project Your Voice: Use full breaths from the diaphragm to project your voice. Stand straight and tall with your neck and face relaxed. To practice projecting, do the “Ha Ha” exercises. Put your hands on your lower stomach. Say “ha ha ha ha” until you can feel the breath coming from deep in your body as felt by your hands. Notice how your tone and volume increases as you speak from this deeper location and breath.
Vary Your Tone: Don’t speak in a monotone – it puts people to sleep. Vary your tone and volume. Getting “quiet” every once in a while can cause people to lean in and pay closer attention. Louder volumes focus attention when many people are talking.
Use Body Language With Awareness: It is great to use your hands when talking, to move around rather than standing in one place. Most of us, however, are not very conscious of our body language. Work with a colleague to observe each other’s body language and give each other feedback. Then practice varying your personal body language style. Watch for negative body language such as crossed arms, looking downwards or speaking with your back to the audience.
Avoid Fidgeting: Don’t twirl your flip chart markers or play with your clothing or jewellery too much.
Move: You don’t have to be a prisoner at the front of the room, or rooted like a tree.
Vary Your Location and Position: When formally presenting, speakers typically are about 5-10 feet from the audience, depending on the audience size. When training and using a variety of activities, you should vary your position. This variation helps keep attention and projects different levels of authority and control. Standing up and being at the front of the room are positions of higher authority and control. Sitting with the group puts you on a more equal ground and encourages trust and openness.
Pay Attention to Eye Contact: Scan across the room and look at everyone. Hold eye contact for a few seconds. Quickly looking away and glancing back is sometimes perceived as lack of confidence or weakness. Don’t just look at the people in positions of authority – look at EVERYONE. Where you look will focus attention in the room.
Pay Attention to Participants’ Body Language: Body language can help you discern learning styles and participant attention levels. Pay attention to them as well as your own body language and responses.
Tone and Body Language Have Cultural Contexts: What one tone or body action means in our culture may mean something completely different in another culture. If you are working with different or culturally mixed groups of participants, be sure to research body language in those cultures prior to training.