The SCN Encourager – Tuesday, February 19, 2013

But what if I’m just naturally odd? (body language, part 2)

Since yesterday’s SCN Encourager offered an “a-ha” about the importance of body language – as reporter Andy Katz shared that experienced journalists read the body language of the people they’re interviewing to see if they’re willing to comment beyond the prepared speaking points – it seemed like a follow-up is in order.

So let’s move past those one-to-one media interview situations and consider those times when we’re asked to prepare, give, or evaluate a group presentation. Heck, with all of the technology available, this should be a snap. The whole body language shouldn’t even be a factor, right? If a speaker has a friendly audience and a visually appealing PowerPoint or Keynote slide show to follow, what more could be necessary for a winning presentation?

The answer: more attention by the speaker to his or her body language.

Carmine Gallo is an award-winning TV journalist and corporate presentation coach. He believes it is usually the simple things that trip up presenters at the beginning. He stresses, “Don’t be odd. Don’t copy mannerisms you’ve seen. Be natural.”

In his surveys of audiences, Gallo has found that the emphasis on whiz-bang visuals projected on screen consistently rank well below three other characteristics evident in the best presentations. Even if the visuals are tremendous, an audience reacts more positively to a presenter who is passionate (believes in the topic) and comfortable with his or her own style (not fake).

Third on Gallo’s list is knowledge of the topic… then pops up the quality of your visuals.

Those darn real-person audiences can really be a pain. They tripped me up. I probably would’ve guessed that “knowledge of topic” would be priority #1. It isn’t.

Audiences give their highest kudos to speakers who made their presentations with appropriate emotional connections (an empathetic smile or tear, etc.), open posture, good eye contact, and non-phony or staged gestures and movements.

Sometimes I’ve been part of preparing or walking through a slide show presentation. I’ll bet you have, too. I always look carefully at the photos used, the graphics, the order of the slides and their length, the wording, and grammar and spelling. Once in a awhile I’ll suggest a more catchy opening or a more logical “next step” for the closing.

I can’t say I’ve ever been part of practicing or reviewing ahead of time the most critical components for a presenter: passion, empathy, posture, eye contact, and being natural. It’s always about the script and the slides.


Tom Page, SCN managing editor
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