Tips to Avoid Presentation Disasters (Part 3)
April 26, 2016
by Dan Solin
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Over the last couple of weeks, I have offered several suggestions for how to give an impactful presentation and avoid the disasters often inflicted on audiences. So far, I’ve covered the importance of knowing your audience and being authentic, as well as dressing the part and focusing on your opening remarks.
In this, the third installment in my series of articles on this topic, I’ll confess to a costly mistake I made early in my speaking career. But first, let me offer two tips that are easy to implement when you deliver a presentation.
The importance of gestures
Gestures are important. They help you articulate your message. They also convey strong signals to your audience.
Every speaker wants to be taken seriously and perceived as authoritative. The right gestures are critical. Think about the gestures of Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Trump is often pictured with his hands spread wide from his side, his palms open and facing his audience. While on the campaign trial, Rubio was far more restricted in his hand movement. He kept his hands clasped in front him and his elbows close to his sides.
Who do you perceive as more powerful?
Someone once told me, “Powerful people take up more space.” That’s true of speakers as well.
If you haven’t seen this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on the impact of gestures, I highly recommend you watch it before your next presentation.
Speakers are effective when they relate to the audience. But how do you achieve “relatability”?
Some speakers make the mistake of confusing relatability with perfection. They take great care in choosing their clothes. Their presentation aids are brilliantly designed. They have rehearsed their speech many times, so it flows effortlessly. The package is perfect.
Unfortunately, they don’t connect with the audience.
Research shows that we find it easiest to relate to people who are like us. In one highly publicized study, participants listened to recordings of other participants taking a quiz and rated them for “likeability.” The study found that people who did well on the quiz and spilled coffee at the end of the interview were rated more likeable than other participants who did well on the quiz but didn’t spill coffee. Spilling coffee “humanized” the person in the interview.
I’m not suggesting you trip and fall on your face prior to starting your presentation. But if you stumble with some of your words, show nervousness or even lose your train of thought, your audience will understand. They’ll probably enjoy your talk more than they would if it were “perfect.”