The Physical Act of Presenting

There are two parts to a successful presentation: the preparation and the delivery. Presentation prep is about organizing your ideas, creating a strong outline for your content, and practicing until you have it down pat. Successful presentation delivery is about the physical act of presenting. 

You know the saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”? Your physical presence and behaviors during a presentation have as much influence on making your message stick as the words you say.

Physical actions like gestures and body language can help engage your audience, increase energy in the room, and reinforce your message. However, random or awkward movements can be distracting and will pull your audience’s attention away from your content.

It’s not a bad idea for beginning trainers to plan out the physical component of their presentations in order to avoid distracting movements, the same way they would outline their content. With practice and experience, the physical act of presenting will become second nature.  You’ll eventually gravitate to a natural balance between audience size, the dimensions of the room, and your own presentation style.

In the meantime, consider the following six elements of the physical act of presenting each time you prepare to go in front of a new audience.

6 Physical Elements of Presentation Success

  1. Gestures – Using gestures or “talking with your hands” can help build rapport with your audience, earning their trust by making you seem open and accessible. Hand gestures also provide non-verbal cues that help communicate and reinforce your message.
  1. Distance – Try to get as close to your audience as you can. This helps remove the mental barrier of presenter vs. audience that can arise when the presenter is positioned on a stage or behind a lectern. Decreasing the distance between you and your audience generates comradery and creates an atmosphere where participant-centered, instructor-led learning can thrive.
  1. Pace of movement – You know how when you get nervous, you tend to speak more quickly? The same can happen to your movements. Your pace conveys your attitude to your audience, and will betray any anxiety or stress you may feel. Move with a brisk pace to demonstrate confidence and enthusiasm. Don’t hesitate as you walk. Every move should feel both natural and intentional.
  1. Use the room – One of two things tend to happen when we feel nervous in front of a room. We either stand stock-still, frozen in place, or we rock on our heels and pace back and forth. Both are distracting to your audience. Pick three spots throughout the room that you will move between throughout your presentation. This ensures that you will “use the room,” connect with all audience members, and vary the pace of your verbal delivery. If you’re worried about hesitating when you move, place colored dots on the floor to mark your spots. During a transition, move with purpose to a new spot in the room and then plant yourself there to deliver a key concept.
  1. Posture – How you stand and conduct yourself in front of an audience can set the tone for the whole presentation. Appearing relaxed, confident, and open will immediately capture your audience’s attention and trust. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, put your weight slightly forward on your toes, and roll your shoulders back. Do this each time you “plant” yourself in a new spot in the room. This stance helps prevent rocking, bouncing, and pacing that will be distracting to your audience.
  1. Eye contact – Direct eye contact is a powerful method of connection. Making eye contact with your audience will help you gain their trust, earn their respect, and maintain attention throughout your presentation. Your eyes are also one of your most influential channels of communication. You can use them to convey emotion that reinforces your message, and to gauge how your presentation is being received. The extent to which you can make eye contact with individuals will vary dependent on audience size, but try to alternate between every quadrant of the room.

Find this blog post useful? You can practice these techniques and discover even more secrets for delivering powerful presentations when you attend a Presentation Skills workshop. Find an upcoming Presentation Skills workshop in a city near you!

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