For some presenters, one of the most challenging things to do is deliver a presentation with energy and passion. Who are these low-energy presenters? Some are introverts. Some are just naturally quiet individuals. Some may even be people who fear public speaking.
When we encounter such individuals as clients, our challenge is to help them deliver more powerfully. How do we do that?
We start by explaining why an energetic delivery is important. Communication is selling. And successful selling involves transferring energy and enthusiasm from speaker to listener. Show me a successful salesperson who lacks passion for his or her product or service. Chances are you can’t.
Just as people naturally gravitate to individuals with outgoing personalities, they are inclined to listen to ideas presented with energy and conviction.
Shift Gears When Presenting
Sometimes our low-energy clients think we’re trying to change their personality. Not so. We remind them that just as people shift gears when they drive (road and weather conditions influence the choice), we need to “shift gears” when communicating. A variety of factors such as audience, venue, topic, etc. determine how you communicate.
Other times we find that clients come from a company culture that discourages showing too much emotion. Or the client may believe or may have been told that it’s best to ratchet down his energy. Men in particular tend to be uncomfortable with being too energetic. You’ve probably seen the “business poker face.”
There are two kinds of energy. Visual energy is what the audience sees. It includes such things as a smile and other changes in facial expression, movement, gestures, eye contact, etc. Vocal energy is what the audience hears. Its primary components are volume, tone and inflection. As a presenter, you want to convey both visual and vocal energy.
During our workshops and coaching sessions, we help people assess their energy by sometimes isolating each of those kinds of energy. For example, when critiquing the recorded presentation, we’ll briefly mute the clip – forcing the client to focus on his or her visual energy – or lack thereof. Then we’ll have the client turn away from the screen and listen to the vocal without being distracted by the visual. It’s a good way to help people identify their energy strengths and weaknesses. As the saying goes, the camera doesn’t lie.
Tips for low-energy presenters
▪ Before you present, adopt the right mindset.
Many presenters have a mindset that says, “Oh no, this is not going to go well. I’m not a good presenter; I’m probably going to bomb.” Not only does this kind of thinking set you up for failure, it decreases energy. Instead, say to yourself, “You have something valuable to share. The audience is really going to benefit from it. You’re going to nail this presentation.” (Speaking to yourself in second person is more effective than doing so in first person.) Positive self-talk can raise energy.
▪ Walk to your opening mark quickly, confidently and with purpose.
And program the audience with a smile. Make sure the first thing they see is a winning smile. They’ll likely reciprocate, which will generate additional energy and enthusiasm in you. Avoid walking up tentatively, reluctantly, sheepishly – with fear or indifference on your face.
▪ Smile throughout your presentation.
Few things do more to facilitate effective communication than a smile. It propels your message with energy and emotional force. Smiles are such an important part of communication that we see them more clearly than any other expression. We can pick up a smile at 300 feet – the length of a football field.
▪ Move occasionally during your presentation.
An audience sees movement as energy. Select a location, move there, plant, stay a while, and then move again. Avoid excessive or constant movement: swaying, shifting, pacing. If you’re presenting while seated, lean forward with your arms and hands above the table. You’ll increase your energy.
▪ Use appropriate gestures.
Use your hands to make natural gestures, just as you do in normal conversation, only make them more expansive. Avoid the “front fig leaf” position (arms lowered with hands clasped in front of you), the “reverse fig leaf” (hands clasped in back of you), and don’t keep your hands in your pocket for more than a few moments or cross arms on your chest. These gestures send out the wrong signals and prevent you from releasing anxiety in the form of energy.
▪ Increase your volume.
Simply talking a little louder increases energy. If you’ve ever seen a VU (volume unit) meter on a piece of audio equipment, you may recall that it’s a gauge with a needle that moves when there’s a change in sound. If your presentation were being monitored on a VU meter, we’d want to see that needle in constant motion.
▪ Vary your tone and inflection.
Presentations should not sound the same throughout. Decide which parts should be delivered in which tone. Humorous? Comforting? Etc. Know that when you get to that part, you must change your tone. Some people write things like this in the margins of their notes: “Sell this!” “Speak softly here.” Also, don’t speak in a monotone or too narrow of a vocal range. Avoid “sameness” in the sound of your voice.
Communication is a Skill
Skills (like sports and other activities) can be taught, learned and applied. If you’re a low-energy presenter, take heart, try the above suggestions, and say goodbye to low-energy presentations. If you’re ready to learn more, get in touch with us to find out how presentations training can help.