Speakers, body language matters—even if you’re not visible

Demeanor affects delivery, and that will come through in a webcast or at a live event where your audience is distant or distracted. Follow these helpful hints to land your message.

Have you ever delivered a presentation where listeners were not looking at you, or not able to see you?

It can happen in any number of business situations:

  • You’re speaking to a huge crowd at an industry event. You look like an ant on stage, especially to the people at the back of the room.
  • You’re presenting financial information to analysts and investors who are busy examining your slides and taking notes.
  • You’re delivering a webinar or a podcast, and there is no video.

In situations like these, clients often ask me, “Is it worth spending the time to work on my delivery skills?”

Yes, because your physical resources help communicate your message.

When you know people won’t be looking at you, it’s tempting to take the easy way out and not think about your delivery skills. This is a missed opportunity, because everything you do (or don’t do) to engage your body comes through in your voice.

When your body is not animated, your voice comes out flat and dull. If you sound bored with your own message, why should your audience pay attention to what you’re saying?

Even when you aren’t visible to your listeners, focus on the following:

  • Posture. Staying straight and tall (even when sitting) gives you confidence and helps you own your message.
  • Movement. Walking with purpose and gesturing contribute to the energy that listeners hear in your voice.
  • Facial expression. Smile! When you’re listening to someone on the phone, can’t you hear it when they are smiling? Your audience will also hear your emotion and passion for your subject, even if they aren’t looking at you.
  • Vocal expression and variety. The way you use and vary your tone, pace and volume can have a great impact on how your message comes across to your audience. For example, use pauses for emphasis and note how the energy of your delivery changes immediately.

Content drives delivery. When you’ve carefully prepared the right message and you wholeheartedly believe in it, that comes through. Even when your audience can’t see you, they will hear your conviction.

Here’s how to prepare content that engages in every situation:

  • Know your audience. What’s important to your listeners about your topic?
  • Craft your core message. Make it succinct, make it clear, and make it memorable.
  • Frame your content so you can deliver with credibility. To be believable, your content must be meaningful to you as well as to your audience. That’s why you’ll never be able to deliver someone else’s content as well as material you’ve developed yourself. Include examples and anecdotes that you personally relate to.

Beyond engaging your audience and achieving the results you’re after, your delivery affects your sense of accomplishment. You want to walk away from every presentation knowing you did your very best to ensure that your audience understands your message and will take action.

When you engage your listeners, you can feel it, can’t you? It shows in people’s body language and in their eyes. Even when they aren’t looking at you, there’s a palpable energy.

If you merely stood up and recited a memorized speech, chances are you wouldn’t get that level of engagement and you wouldn’t feel satisfied with your performance.

Whether you’re speaking live in front of an audience or presenting virtually, your delivery always matters. Invest in preparation appropriate for the occasion at hand; an expressive delivery is one vital investment toward achieving your desired results.

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high stakes presentations. She has 25+ years of coaching experience and eight years of experience teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has coached more than 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies and high levels of government. She holds a bachelor’s in speech communications and education and a master’s in organizational communications and business. Learn more at www.professionallyspeaking.net and www.professionallyspeakingblog.com.

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