In the first post of this two-part presentation skills series our first five steps looked at setting your presentation up for charismatic impact by ensuring you were well prepared, but more importantly by warming up your audience with your enthusiasm, a ‘Duchenne’ smile, and strong open body language. The last four steps build on this foundation and will help you inject charisma into all of your presentations.
Presenters with charisma engage their audiences – drawing them into their presentations. The process of delivering a presentation with charisma begins in Step 6 with making good positive eye contact.
6. Use the ‘Windows to the Soul’
When someone charismatic makes a presentation every person in the room feels that his or her comments are directed right at them. Eye is one of the key presentation skills that play a large part in creating this impression.
When addressing a large group break the audience into three imaginary zones – center, left and right. Start with one of your imaginary zones and select someone to establish eye contact with. For about five seconds or so address your points directly to him or her. A large circle of people around that person will feel that you are addressing your points to them personally.
Then move your attention to the next zone and again select someone to address your attention to for five seconds or so – making eye contact.
Try to cover the zone from front to back over the course of your presentation so that, by the end of your presentation you have covered the entire room with a matrix of eye contact, and everyone in the room feels that you addressed them personally at some point.
Charisma is about reaching out to your audience one person at a time, and making each feel that they are the sole target of your comments – and one of the best presentation skills for achieving this when speaking to a larger group is eye contact.
7. Use Positive Language
A key component in a presenter’s charisma is self-assurance. Positive optimism and confidence are very charismatic.
This has implications for your word choice in speeches and presentations. At all times your language must be self-assured and positive – substitute weak words with their more positive cousins: for ‘hopefully’ substitute ‘certainly’; for ‘if’ use ‘when’, for ‘I hope’ use ‘I expect’. Always use the most confident, optimistic, and assumptive language you can.
If you sound uncertain then you will not convince your audience of your message.
8. Speak in Images
Think of the most powerfully persuasive speeches you ever heard, especially the ones with a real feeling of charisma . Now stop for a moment – what did these great speeches have in common that made them so emotionally impactful, so charismatic, so persuasive and memorable for you?
You’ll find that what such speeches share in common more than anything else is the use by the speaker of rich emotional imagery to convey his or her key messages – they created in your mind a clear picture of what the speaker wished to convey. Images speak straight to the listener’s subconscious and allow them to interpret what a speaker is saying in their own way. Using images and stroytelling is one of the most charismatic of presentation skills.
Illustrate your key points with image rich stories. Here’s the order of impact of some of the key image tools you can use in your talks:
9. Use Your Voice as a Charismatic Instrument
Your voice is an endlessly versatile instrument – with the smallest changes in tone, volume and inflection you can express the full range of emotions from depression to joy, from enthusiasm to lethargy, from pessimism to optimism. Use your voice:
- Start your talk with a strong voice on high volume
- When making a critical point slow down – even to a very slow and deliberate one-word-at-a-time pace for really critical points.
- Use the dramatic pause. 2-3 seconds is like an eternity in a presentation – the sudden silence will jolt those whose attention has drifted back to full consciousness.
- Use a quick pace to convey your excitement or enthusiasm for a topic.
- For a solemn message drop the speed, tone and volume way down.
- Use volume – build it up in a crescendo effect as you work through points to your most critical point. If you want to get attention you can also drop the volume so that they have to lean forward to hear you.
UK researcher, Professor Richard Wiseman summarized his advice to wannabe charismatics approaching a speech or talk:
Be clear, fluent, forceful and articulate, evoke imagery, use an upbeat tempo, occasionally slow for tension or emphasis
You can make all of your future presentations and talks much more charismatic. Now that you know how – are you prepared to invest the effort?