Many people think presence is something you’re born with, but as a performer I learned that presence can be developed. If you’re alive and taking up space, you have some presence. The question is, how much? Enough to engage one person? Ten? Twenty? And for how long? Five minutes? Fifteen minutes? Two hours? As a presenter, you need to have enough presence to connect with your entire audience for the full length of your presentation. And with the declining attention span of today’s decision-makers, you need even more presence to keep them engaged!
- Show personality:
When it comes to presentations, it’s not uncommon for otherwise perfectly engaging salespeople to leave their personality at the door. The tendency is to go into “Presenter mode,” flattening or smoothing things out for an effect that sounds more like an NPR announcer than a real person. Telling a prospect they’re going to save a million dollars is delivered with the same enthusiasm as telling them they can get their parking validated. In order to bring some personality back into your presentation try doing an “over-the-top” rehearsal. Find somewhere private and deliver your presentation using as much energy, personality and excitement as you can muster. In other words, whatever is big for you in terms of voice, gestures and movement – go even BIGGER. If you do this before your “real” presentation your energy will be elevated and your personality will come shining through.
- Move with purpose:
Being able to move freely about your space shows confidence and draws your audience’s attention, but movement can be tricky for presenters. Some ping from one side of the room to the other, distracting their audience from the message. Others stand glued to one spot—as if any movement will result in some form of extreme punishment. The important thing to remember about movement is that is must be connected to a purpose. For example, moving towards an audience member to make a point or walking to the whiteboard to write something down. If you often find yourself stuck, it’s helpful to create reasons to move by placing props at various places throughout the room. For example, position the whiteboard at one side of the room, the pens at the other and a handout near the audience. Although there’s no need to pre-plan your every move, having a “staging” plan will give you the freedom to move and help keep your audience engaged.
- Use Vocal Variety:
Think of your voice as floating on a scale. Are you using only middle C? Many presenters use a very limited range which can quickly cause an audience to tune out – especially if you’re speaking for any length of time or doing a virtual presentation or demo. Examples of vocal variety include changing up the pace, tone or volume, adding emphasis or pauses. Look for natural places to add variety in your delivery. For example, when you want to call attention to a particular point, think about changing your intonation or pausing for emphasis. Your words come alive with meaning when you use variety. Tip: Practice vocal variety throughout your day (Example: “I’ll have a GRANDE…café mocha please!”) so it doesn’t feel unnatural when you do it in your presentation.
- Re-engage every 5-7 minutes:
Don’t take it personally: The average adult’s attention starts to drift after 5-7 minutes no matter how compelling your presentation. Avoid losing your audience for good by strategically planning some form of re-engagement throughout your presentation: introduce a prop, tell a quick story, ask a question, show a video or use the whiteboard. Building an arsenal of re-engagement tools will help you make sure your audiences’ attention stays with you and away from the many available distractions.
Adding presence-building techniques to great content is a sure way to win over your audience and win more sales!
photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer via photopin cc