“Can I improve my communication skills?” The answer is yes, but please consider this question first.
What is the biggest, not the most important but the biggest part of any presentation?
And it is not what comes out of your mouth. The average person only hears 1 in every 12 words that you say, so you can stop panicking about getting your presentation down to being word perfect. The audience is only hearing the important words anyway.
It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it. The meaning of any sentence is taken from your body language, your tone of voice and lastly the words.
This graph highlights the percentage of weight we give to these three areas when deciding what someone means.
Surprised? Most people are and most people who know it, forget to implement it properly when trying to get their message across.
Imagine I just said “I’m happy” in a light high tone to my voice. I am stood up straight and smiling. I guess you decided I was happy.
Now imagine I just said “I’m happy” in a low drawn out tone of voice. I am sat slightly slumped with my chin resting on one hand. I guess you have now decided I’m being sarcastic and am definitely not happy.
It’s not what you say it’s how you say it.
So how does this help you as a presenter?
Well you can say really rude things with a smile on your face and no one will notice.
NO that is a joke but just think about some people you may know who are not that nice, who just seem to drop ‘not so nice’ comments with a smile on their face and they have left the room before anyone catches on to what they have just said. This is how they get away with it.
What it does mean is that you can worry less about being word perfect and more about having fun when presenting. Yes you can have fun and the presentation will be all the better for it.
We take 55% of the meaning from a persons body Language.
Slumped shoulders, lack of eye contact and no smile will scream “don’t look at me” to your audience before you have even opened your mouth.
Stand up straight, give lots of eye contact around the room and smile. You’ve got this and even if you don’t, they’ll never know !!
Just a note here on eye contact. Most of us will naturally be drawn to those they know in the audience or if they don’t know anyone the person directly in front of them or the one with the friendliest, smiley face. DO NOT FOCUS ON ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. Doing this will make the rest of the audience feel unwanted and ignored.
As a presentation skills trainer I have watched thousands of presentations over the years and even after I have taught them these facts they may have smiled, stood up straight and looked like they were enjoying it but only to one or two in the audience because of eye contact. Oh boy have I felt unwanted and ignored a lot in my life.
Keep hands in front of you and use them naturally to emphasise points. If we cannot see someone’s hands we naturally don’t trust them. Basic human instinct. What are they hiding?
Do not point with your finger or any pen or implement you may be holding. No one likes someone who points at them. It is very aggressive.
Your voice has a 38% weighting to it in terms of the audience’s perception of your presentation, so we also need to consider this.
You cannot do much about your accent but if you know that it is very different to that of your audience slow it down a little to help them Keep up with your message.
Make sure everyone in the room can hear you. It is natural if you are a little fearful of presenting, to lower your voice. Don’t. In fact Speak a little louder than feels comfortable and you will have it about right.
We can also have a tendency to speak faster. The ‘let’s get it over with’ syndrome. Speak a little slower than is comfortable and again you will have it about right.
That leaves us with the last 7% The words we use.
Avoid slang not everyone will understand it’s meaning.
Do not read the words from your notes or a PowerPoint screen.
Use inclusive words like “We” instead of “You”. Make yourself part of the audience.
I hope this brief outline has helped you in considering your approach to your presentation. There is a lot more to learn in each of these three areas as we progress in our presenting skills but what I have outlined here should help to make your presentation more enjoyable for your audience and for you.
I wish you every success and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Thanks for this interesting piece.
This is little acted upon fact although it is a very known fact. The reason why people focus on their words despite the minute value they have in the overall communication message is that they are located in their brain and brain only. Their life is not into what they say, most of the time.
The key is to be into what you say!
Thank you for dropping by my site Orion.
I like your comment, that you have to be in to what you say. Believing in what your saying and having passion for the message makes for great presentations.
With Grace and Gratitude
Brilliant and insightful thanks for creating this post
That’s okay Colin, I hope you found it useful.
With Grace and Gratitude
Excellent points, Karen. It took me back 1979, in my Speech class at the NCO Academy at Robins AFB, GA…long ago in a galaxy far away :-). Yourcircle graphic jumped off the screen and got my attention right away. Good job. Best wishes,
Thank you for you kind comments Joe.
I too have galaxies far far away but hopefully I have brought the skills I learnt there back with me.
With Grace and Gratitude
These are great tips, especially for how to be an effective communicator when giving a presentation. I think I’m one of those people on the autistic spectrum who pays more attention to the words themselves than to the body language or tone. I guess I assumed tone was a bigger one than body language, but I suppose since much of my communication is remote or written, body language isn’t a factor!
Hi Penelope and thank you for your comments.
Working on your body language can be helpful even if communication is remote. What we do with our body comes across in our voice. I always teach people, especially in sales to stand and move around when talking on the phone as they will automatically sound upbeat. Slumping over your desk when on the phone can make your voice sound dull and monotone.
Hope this is useful