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Added: 24th May 2019 by CGG
When convincing others, it is not just what we say but how we say it
Focusing an audience’s attention and conveying messages with clarity and conviction are essential assets in most professional situations. However relying on the quality of your arguments alone is not enough, the way you present yourself has a strong influence on your ability to be heard, believed and followed. We believe people then we believe the facts they are presenting to us.
Create a bond with your audience:
Convey your enthusiasm: smile, say that you are happy to be there, thank your audience and hosts and introduce yourself! If you are giving a presentation in person engage with your audience by making eye contact, walking around the room, if possible speak to some of them individually if you have a couple of minutes before your talk starts and find out where they’re from and what they do. Don’t just present your ideas, ask and solicit questions from your audience particularly if your subject is a technical one as you may find you need to change the level you are pitching at or your overall focus.
Pay attention to the image you project:
Prepare ahead of time by filming yourself using your phone or tablet speaking in a room at home or an empty tutorial room – if you can face it ask a friend or family member for feedback. Work on your voice and gestures; but accept you will be anxious, as even very experienced speakers get nervous before a talk. Don’t worry too much about suppressing any nervous gestures as this will distract you; instead rely on your enthusiasm for your subject to make you forget yourself. Also if you don’t know what to do with your hands then having a prop like a marker pen or biro, prompt cards, or a pointer can really help. Finally dress smartly but comfortably – so wear a shirt but keep the top-hole unbuttoned and wear your comfortable shoes. This usually strikes the right balance in terms of dress and shows your audience you are taking them seriously.
Work on your credibility:
Make sure your posture and tone are aligned with your message. Unless you have a very good excuse (and make a quick joke and apology out of it) you should not be yawning during questions. Never be flippant about your work – people have invested their time to listen to you – and avoid colloquialisms. Finally be honest about your motivations and never ever be embarrassed to show your interest and passion for your subject.
Ultimately it’s your fellow human beings you’re speaking to and in most situations – whether you’re a student presenting your thesis, a recruiter making a company pitch, a scientist speaking at a conference – your audience has chosen to be there, so you’re already ahead before you’ve started as they think you’re someone worth listening to even if you have doubts!
And finally the two paradoxes of presenting to others: fundamentally there is no difference between speaking to one person and speaking to a 100 – a 100 people is still a 100 ‘one’s; and the moment you forget yourself in your passion for your subject, is when you are most yourself and you communicate most effectively.