Monday, July 26, 2010

A reader asks "How do I speak clearly but with excitement when I'm presenting?"


This month, I'm asking readers "Who are you? What are you looking for here?"  Follow the link to share your reasons, questions and  speaking challenges. Cate, an intern in a major multinational corporation's intern program, writes that she wants help with:

....Speaking clearly with excitement. I've been told over and over that I need to speak more slowly because I have a British accent. Now, apparently I don't sound enthusiastic enough - even when I think I'm being enthusiastic my Canadian friend tells me that I am all British and dry. I have no idea how to manage this feedback, what is possible to fix, and how I would go about it (I currently live in Canada).
Conveying enthusiasm can be an infectious and persuasive tool for presenters, helping to put your point across or win the support you're seeking.  While this could be a cultural issue, I'd suggest you try these do's and don'ts for expressing enthusiasm to be sure you're using all the tools in the toolbox first. 

  1. Do consider how your audience feels about your topic.  Is it one they can easily become excited about? If so, take advantage of that by asking them to share their thoughts to build a sense of excitement in the room.  If not, figure out which aspects they can get behind, and emphasize those.
  2. Don't forget to share your own enthusiasm.  If you're presenting about the most challenging analysis you've done to date, or the most frustrating, or the one that answers a question you've always had, confide that to your audience. Sharing your personal enthusiasm is a great way to connect with your audience.
  3. Do check your vocal variety and inflections.  Be sure you're varying your pitch, tone and pace appropriately.  Are you  using strategic pauses? Emphasizing important words? Avoiding a sing-song or monotone quality to your voice?  Try these vocalizing tips to add variety and a more enthusiastic sound.  Don't forget projection, either:  If they can't hear you, the audience might well assume you're not excited.
  4. Don't stand your ground.  Standing in one spot is a sure-fire way to drain your energy and that of your audience. The more you move, the more you can use your stance, pace and position to convey your points strongly and with excitement and energy that's visible to all.
  5. Do check your gestures. No need to leap into the air, but be sure you've thought through places in the presentation where a strategic gesture can add some excitement or drive your point home.
  6. Don't forget to smile.  Most mouths naturally turn downward or are flat-lined when at rest, making you look neutral at best and sad at worst.  Smiling not only helps you by creating chemical reactions that make you feel better, it also corrects that natural tendency and helps counteract the impression that you just don't care.
When you're preparing a presentation, do one pass-through looking for places where you can use one or more of these approaches.  Just as you rehearse with an eye to timing and pace, or vocal issues, doing at least one review for how persuasive and enthused you sound may be the solution you're seeking.

Readers, please share your ideas for presenting enthusiastically in the comments.

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