Getting your point across to present information, sell a product, educate an audience and so on is vital to everyday business. Your ultimate goal is to move people to action, and being able to influence how others think and react is a powerful tool to have.
Choosing the right words to say, how you present yourself and how you use your voice are important parts of influential speaking. Here are five ways to increase your influence when speaking:
Impression and intention
Asserting the right impression on your audience is critical. While people may already have preconceived notions about you based on what they have heard or read about you, a lot can be done to either cement that or change that impression.
Work on your credibility and deepen your knowledge in your area of expertise. State the intentions of your presentations clearly and concisely. Always remember it is a privilege to be given someone’s time, and you should honour that by giving the best of yourself.
Just remember that a reputation takes years to build and seconds to destroy. Anything you can do to build on that good reputation is the key to maintaining a consistent brand for yourself.
I am sure you have met people who take to the stage like a fish to water. Their ability to waltz on stage, grab your attention, immerse you in their world and leave you in a vulnerable state is what we call “stage presence”.
While it may seem so unattainable right now, you may be comforted to know it wasn’t always that easy for them too. Being able to do a “Steve Jobs” takes years of practice and there are many ways you can start practising your “strokes”.
Always work on centring yourself, focusing your mind, body and energy into the room where your presentation will take place. Take a 10-minute “quiet time” if necessary to meditate, practise breathing exercises, go through your speech and completely focus your being on connecting with the audience.
Once you are completely focused yet relaxed, nerves don’t stand a chance and you will have the audience eating out of your hand.
Your voice is possibly one of the most under-used organs in your body. I always tell my clients to imagine they have a $2 million Stradivarius violin inside them waiting to be discovered and they haven’t quite learnt how to play it.
Knowing how to vary your tone, pitch, volume, rhythm and rate of speech is just the first step to mastering your instrument. Adding the appropriate emotions, inflection, pauses and emphasis will give your story and presentation the true influence it deserves.
Working with a voice coach or a friend is the easiest and quickest way to practise these elements and getting into the habit of reading out loud at every opportunity is also a wonderful way to exercise those muscles.
The art of body language and connection
Now you have spent all that time working on your presentation, don’t let yourself and others down by not communicating with your whole being.
Many people do not realise that using your body and facial expressions forms a huge part of any kind of communication. To project a sense of authority, always keep your posture upright, stand tall and square your shoulders.
Never fold your arms during a speech or twirl your hair unless you want to completely lose credibility with your audience. Keep your gestures natural and ensure that your facial expressions mirror what you are saying.
It helps to video yourself making a speech so you can see for yourself the kinds of gestures and facial expressions you may have.
Always maintain eye contact with your audience and remember to address the whole room. Keep their interest by incorporating stories and language styles that may be relevant to your audience.
Structure to influence
To help you get to the crux of your message, always ask yourself an important question. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask “What’s in it for me?” (WII FM — it even sounds like a radio station!).
Consider their background and jobs and why they have spent good money to attend your presentation. Tailoring your message to speak to their sensibilities will not only make your message more palatable; it will stick.
Secondly, structuring your presentation in a logically sound manner will assist in getting your audience to follow your argument and keep their interest. Use examples to illustrate each point you make and use lots of metaphors, analogies and visual aids to help get it across.
Reiterate your main message throughout your presentation so it is anchored in their brain. At the very least, that is the message they will take home with them.
Article by Petrina Kow, a public speaking and voice acting coach. She was a former 938 Live and Class 95FM broadcaster. Art of Voice Company coaches executives, managers and leaders in effective communication skills. For more information, visit www.artofvoice.com