At my dentist, a new hygienist greeted me. She smiled and chatted that reassuring conversation designed to put you at ease before you get into “The Chair.” The “at ease” feeling dissipated quickly. Within the first couple of minutes, she ran into a table, dropped an instrument, nearly knocked over the instrument tray and struggled to turn on the lamp. Nervous yet?
What does this have to do with presentations? It’s more than the words that build confidence in your audience. The message you send is a combination of everything your audience sees and hears. Your rate of speech and the tone of your voice have major impacts. Your gestures can add to, or subtract from, your audience’s confidence in you. Visuals like PowerPoint, if not used properly, can detract from the audience’s understanding. I can’t count the number of presentations I’ve seen killed by slides filled with tiny words. It’s so common that the term “Death by PowerPoint” has become well known.
The hard part is for me to simply tell you the right way of building confidence with the audience. My best friend was a newspaper editor for many years. He would say, “You need to know the rules of writing so you can know when you need to break them.” The same goes for presentations: you need to know what creates a powerful and persuasive presentation so you know when to break the rules for dramatic effect. Done right, you can grab the audience’s attention. Done wrong, and you come across the same way as the dental hygienist.
Luckily I survived “The Chair” with minor injuries, enduring a couple of hard pokes in the gums with the scraper and a very wide stretch of the mouth with her mirror. I hope she improves before my next appointment. I hope you are not doing anything that causes pain to your audience. If you aren’t sure, drop me a note to take advantage of my monthly free thirty-minute coaching session via Google Hangout.