by Paul Geiger, author of “Better Business Speech: Techniques, Tricks, and Shortcuts for Public Speaking at Work“
Speaking in front of a group in any business setting, whether it’s a formal presentation, a meeting or on a conference call, requires not only that you have a well-prepared message, but that you deliver it clearly. Any number of glitches can sabotage your delivery. It’s critical to recognize and address them before you find yourself in the spotlight.
People who have mastered public speaking exude an “executive presence.” This person isn’t just well groomed or highly intelligent. More than that, this is someone who conveys clear thinking and confident body language. Someone with executive presence can keep an audience rapt through a prolonged pause, and can effortlessly ride the wave created by the “energy of attention” – that surge of energy that hits when all eyes land expectantly on them.
The best tricks for projecting executive presence and communicating with confidence involve both the mental and the physical aspects of public speaking. Yes, speaking is a full-body experience, even when you’re talking on the phone! In fact, research on the importance of gestures shows they help in conveying a message to your audience. When you align your body language with your spoken thoughts, you communicate with more authority and authenticity.
To effectively connecting with your audience means that you first connect to your message and to your body’s language of persuasion. Use these tricks to give power to your public speaking:
1. Find your bumper sticker.
Distilling your message down to a bold, powerful phrase helps give you a firm grasp of what you want to convey. It also clarifies to your audience your unique perspective on the material you’re presenting. This requires asking yourself, “Why is this information important to me, and why should it be important to my listener?”
Your bumper sticker isn’t an elevator pitch; that’s much too long. It’s a very short sentence or phrase that sums it all up. For example, for this article, my bumper sticker might be “Breathing and Bumper Stickers.” Stating your bumper sticker at the outset guarantees a very strong start because it reveals what you need to say right up front. You can return to your bumper sticker through your speech to ground your audience and keep yourself on track.
2. Keep to the three-idea limit.
Once you have your bumper sticker, your explanation should consist of three main reasons why you feel the way you do about the subject. Three ideas in any one sitting is pretty much everyone’s limit. Also, keeping the message concise will project a sense of forward momentum and will allow your listeners to recognize that you are in charge.
3. Own your breathing.
The positive perceptions that good, deliberate breathing can convey range from having forward momentum to relaxation, comfort and confidence. Most individuals mistakenly think that their minds are holding them back. In reality, they’re reacting to the sensations caused by inefficient breathing for speech. Breathing is the key to projecting and enhancing your voice. For example, take a deep breath, then speak the following phrase, emphasizing the word got. “You’ve got to be kidding!” The word feels like it’s coming from your core. It makes your voice sound “fueled” and more resonant. Deliberate breathing also reduces the fight-or-flight response in those first nervous moments of public speaking when you tend to use shallow breathing.
4. Integrate gestures.
Using natural gestures when you speak helps connect your body and your breath. Integrating gestures will noticeably slow down your pace. They also help ground you in your delivery and convey a higher level of commitment to the words you’re speaking. If you only have one “go to” gesture, watch speakers on TED Talks or other speakers to build your arsenal. Break down a section of your presentation sentence by sentence and discipline yourself to not keep repeating a gesture. Being able to change your gestures is also the key to changing the intonation of your speech.
5. Practice makes perfect.
Performers know that each performance hour is equal to about four practice hours. Remember: Memorization is not as important as preparation. When practicing, stand up and speak your presentation out loud in front of a mirror. This helps you in utilizing your breath, integrating your gestures and interjecting your bumper sticker phrase with punch. Synchronizing your message, your breathing and your gestures will allow you to nail it!
Paul Geiger helps business people communicate clearly, overcome their fear of public speaking and promote themselves and their ideas with effective speech techniques. He is currently a Senior Associate Instructor at New York Speech Coaching in New York City. Paul is also an accomplished actor, voiceover artist and on camera host. He is the author of “Better Business Speech: Techniques, Tricks, and Shortcuts for Public Speaking at Work“.