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Using Your Body

Much discussion has been devoted to shaping your content and delivery. Most of what we have explored thus far involves the mental processes of thinking and writing. However, the physical process is also important. Unless you plan to deliver the presentation as a disembodied voice from behind a curtain la The Wizard of Oz, you need to put some physicality into your speaking. Steve Jobs is an accomplished public speaker. Strolling or even prowling the stage, alone or with a strategic prop (a new Apple product), he projects a sense of confidence and knowledge. His physicality underscores the power of his message because it says subconsciously, "I know what I am talking about and I am in control."

  • Visualize a speaking style. How do you see yourself delivering the presentation? From behind the podium, walking the stage, or moving into the audience? Ideally, polished presenters do some roaming. But until you are totally comfortable, it is better to use a podium where you can mount your speech or notes. Teleprompters, where words are projected on television monitors out of the audience's sight line, free the speaker to wander the stage without having to refer to notes.

  • Get involved physically. At a minimum, you must do a few simple physical things:

    • Make eye contact with the audience.

    • hift your gaze from one side of the room to the other and from back to front. Actually, the process is remarkably similar to the one you use when you drive as you shift your gaze from the road in front of you to the rearview mirror and sideview mirrors.

    • Look up from the podium. Keep your nose out of your notes.

    • Do not read the words in your visuals (if you have them). Instead, interpret what it is you have to say. (An exception is cartoons. They are little stories, so it is acceptable to read them.)

  • Use gestures for emphasis. Use a hand motion or wave an arm. When you are more accomplished as a presenter, get out from behind the podium. Move about the stage or speaking area.

    • Get your shoulders in motion.

    • Stand still momentarily, then stride to one side of the room.

    • Make grand gestures occasionally.

    • Engage the audience with an occasional question, e.g., "Wouldn't you agree?" or "Am I clear?"

    If all of this sounds theatrical, that's because it is. If you do not feel comfortable doing it, then do not force it. Too much animation is wearing not only on you, but also on an audience. But gradually, over time, you can get physical to a degree that is comfortable for both you and your audience.

  • See your message. Videotape yourself. Again, you won't like yourself on the screen at first. But when you get over that, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Am I gesturing appropriately?

    • Do I look credible?

    • Would I buy something (a message or a product) from this guy?

The success of a presentation depends upon its delivery. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey radiates empathy and understanding. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor, radiates energy and the enthusiasm of having something important to say. When the words match the voice and body, magic can occur. It is a matter of practice and commitment to giving the audience something it can remember.

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