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Align How You Communicate with How You Want to be Interpreted

Preparation and Practice Ensure Your Public Speaking Performance is Powerful!

8899824208_005d2d9738_z.jpgEvery aspect of a presentation should be planned and rehearsed. We call this preparation and practice -- two of the "3 Ps". The third "P" is performance, the realization you can't just sleepwalk through a presentation -- you must unlock your inner performer.

Preparation starts with knowing as much as you can about the audience, which leads to the development of messages that are built around the audience's interests. If your presentation is going to educate, engage and mobilize your audience, it has to focus primarily on the wants and needs of your audience. If it's about you, you're sunk.

Preparation for a presentation stretches beyond defining what you will say and includes how you will say it. This should start with asking if you want the information interpreted positively. Most -- but not all -- business communication falls into this category, but surprisingly few business communicators naturally default to positive nonverbal cues, even when delivering positive information.

If you want your message to be interpreted positively, start with your facial expression. The audience will subconsciously soak up a great deal of meaning from your face. Are you smiling? Are you making eye contact with members of the audience (one at a time -- hold eye contact for a few seconds with someone and then transition to the next person)?

Moving beyond facial expression, did you check the mirror before you started -- just to make sure nothing is out of whack? Little things such as a slightly untucked shirt, a sock that's not pulled up or that little bit of mustard on the corner of your lip can become huge distractions for an audience. Are you projecting an air of confidence, standing straight with shoulders square?

Even though this all sounds as if it should come naturally, public speaking is not a natural environment. Nothing really comes naturally when you step in front of an audience. This is why we recommend planning even the basics.

If you want your message interpreted positively, make sure all the nonverbal and verbal cues, messages and visual aids are aligned and there is nothing left to the audience's imagination. That's how we apply the teachings of Professor Albert Mehrabian, who examined the relative importance of nonverbal cues, verbal cues and the message in how an audience applies meaning to a communication.

In our training we often will attempt to illustrate this point by delivering the same message a few different ways. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to do! Delivering a positive message with negative verbal and nonverbal cues can be really hard -- unless that's what you default to naturally.

Nothing against scientists and engineers, but many tend to be fairly serious people who can be uncomfortable showing emotion or projecting positivity. Some have expressed to us that they consider it irresponsible to display anything other than a dispassionate and neutral demeanor. If that's the natural default mannerism you project, the audience will have great difficulty interpreting your communication as positive.

You wouldn’t believe how often we hear from frustrated presenters that the audience just didn’t seem to get it. It shouldn’t be a big surprise.

If anything in the presentation seems out of alignment, the audience will always refer to the various clues they have to try to figure it out. They don’t think about this – it is all happening to all of us all the time. We don’t have to think about it. Most often we refer to nonverbal cues such as facial expression and eye contact to help interpret meaning. Verbal cues such as tone of voice also contribute to a person's interpretation of meaning, but they tend to be less important. Mehrabian found that the message itself is often the weak link when it comes to applying meaning to a communication -- it is easily trumped by the other cues.  

At DPK Public Relations, we are big believers in planning and rehearsing all of this. Rehearsal isn't just intended to make sure you don't forget your lines. It's intended to help you figure out how to get in the proper frame of mind so you powerfully deliver your presentation in such a way that the audience really gets it. Positivity comes through your voice with more inflection, greater energy that contributes to powerful projection of the voice, and a sense of enthusiasm. Similarly, in these few cases in which you might be called upon to deliver serious or unpopular information, you want everything aligned. Lower your eyebrows slightly. Avoid any smile. Slow down your pace of speech. Dress in an appropriate manner, avoiding bright colors.

DPK Public Relations' half-day and full-day Presentation Skills Training is offered by appointment. We come to your location at your convenience to address your unique needs. Contact DPK Public Relations for more information on Presentation Skills Training at 800.596.8708 or by completing our PR contact form.

Good luck!

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Daniel Keeney
(800) 596-8708
Author: Daniel Keeney
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