Through out the years, we have supported many individuals across the corporate and private sector from all over Europe. We’ve trained C-Suite Personnel, Business Executives, Sales Professionals, Scientist, Engineers, Legal and Medical Professionals, and one topic that comes up over and over again is ‘Executive Presence’ and how to achieve it.
Let me share with you an insight I had some time ago, which might help you to understand and build on your own Presence
I try to go for run most days and one of the routes I have enjoyed most over the years, is the lovely Phoenix Park here in Dublin. One day, along my route, I came face to face with a large herd of deer. They were all standing very still, regarding my presence with quiet curiosity.
What struck me most at the time, was their immense stillness. The deer possessed such calmness and a phenomenal sense of ease and yet, they were also completely alert, ready to flee at any sign of danger.
I stood looking at them for what seemed like an age, transfixed and drawn by something – their amazing ‘Presence’
An audience is always connected to a speaker who communicates in a relaxed and calm way, but just like a wild deer, a speaker always needs be alert to the audience. So if building your executive presence is something on your mind, try this simple technique – stop moving, stay grounded and still!
The Art of Stillness Builds Executive Presence
Moving around may help you to calm nerves or to feel at ease but it can be very distracting for your audience. Instead, try to find an ease within yourself to simply stand still and be present. By just following this technique, not only will you build your presence in front of your audience, you will also connect in a stronger and more authentic way
“Stillness is a simple, yet powerful technique to build presence”
Remember this; as a speaker, you have the ability to instil any emotion in your audience.
If you are agitated or stressed then your audience will also be agitated and stressed. If you are at ease and physically relaxed and grounded, then your listeners will also be at ease and guess what…they will also be more open to listening, and building that all important connection with you. You will have achieved ‘presence’!
Sometimes we just need to demystify things and go back to basics when it comes to communication! So next time you are rehearsing your presentation, try this technique to achieve Executive Presence.
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Mark Twain once said ‘There are two kinds of speakers in the world: Those who get nervous and those who are liars..’ And he wouldn’t be far off. Everyone gets a dose of presentation nerves, some just hide it better than others! Even the greatest orator in history Marcus Tullius Cicero once ran from the forum where he was set to speak because he was terrified with nerves.
TED coaches, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, even presidents get nervous. But the trick is to look and sound cool, calm, and collected even when you’re not feeling the love.
Cicero knew that you have to “fake it ‘till you make it”, but it’s actually more than that; it’s fake it until you become it. Unless you’re soaked in sweat and physically unable to speak, audiences don’t know what you don’t tell them.
The ancient Romans and Greeks invented this kind of thinking; they called the art of oratory actio as in ‘acting’. A speaker is an actor, and the best actors are the ones who are most truthful, convincing, and authentic on stage.
These ancient orators also knew about nerves and that they can be an important part of pumping up your energy before you go on, and, if managed properly, you can channel that energy to give your performance passion, charisma, and memorability.
People won’t be able to take their eyes off you and they may not even know why. Here’s Cicero’s 5 Cannons and how they can help you knock it out of the park even when you’re feeling like you can’t even suit up to bat.
The 5 Canons
Cicero, that great orator, came up with five aspects of giving a great speech or ‘Canons’. There’s no substitute to combat presentation nerves than being well prepared and he was the king of relentless preparation and practice, as he was taught by his Greek tutors.
Cicero’s canons are thus:
Invention, Style, Memory, Arrangement, Delivery.
1. Invention: The Hook
This is the nugget of what you want to say. It’s the distilled essence of what your speech or presentation is all about and why people should listen.
It’s usually around 40 words or less and about 12 seconds, roughly the length of a human breath, and it is one sentence. But that’s it!
Brevity is beauty. Keep it simple and keep it short and audiences will love you for it.
2. Arrangement: Road Map The Journey Of A Presentation
Before you open PowerPoint, sit down and map out your story. Every speech or presentation is a story that has a beginning, middle, and end, and once you’ve got that clear, it’s time to open PowerPoint and see what you need to support and illustrate your message that will add colour, texture, and memorability.
Story first, PowerPoint after. This will ensure you are clear in your journey and will help you avoid using PowerPoint as a report or crutch.
3. Style: Channel Your Inner Obama
Everybody has their own style and in order to develop that style, watch as many people as you can give presentations and speeches. What are they doing well? Using pace, pause, pitch, volume?
Observe what they’re doing that works and, equally importantly, what doesn’t. Steal from the best and leave the rest. As you practice and video yourself, you’ll begin to discover and develop your own style.
No two speakers are the same so don’t worry about being like someone else. Remember, it’s about being the best YOU, not becoming someone else.
Great sources are Youtube, TEDtalks, and people at your own company or place of work.
4. Memory: Build Your Palace! It Helps Reduce Presentation Nerves
Presentation nerves are often brought on by that fear of forgetting. Mnemonics is the learning of techniques to aid in human memory. A mnemonic device could be an acronym or image that helps you to associate information and recall it more efficiently.
The Roman orators often used the image of a palace or great house with many rooms where they attributed sections of their speeches to different rooms in order to remember the information better.
5. Delivery: Bring It On, Superman
After you do your warm up (and everybody does something), the last thing you do is stand with your feet wide apart and hands on hips a la Superman/Wonder Woman and smile (master of all your survey)
It will help banish those presentation nerves and give you a sense of expansion, positivity, and being grounded.
Then, picture your audience and send out a thought of generosity, ‘I love you guys!’ and make it all about them, not you.
So take it from the guys who started it all and use the five canons and take heed of Cicero;
‘Whatever you do, do it with all your might.’
It’s all there for the taking so practice, practice, practice and give it your best shot. The worst thing that can happen is you try and fail, so try and fail again, and then try again.
“ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.”
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Have you ever sat there before a presentation and felt so nervous that your stomach is like a washing machine, and you wish the fire alarm would go off so you don’t have to open your mouth? Well you are not alone. Presentation nerves affect almost everyone who has ever stood up to give a speech […]
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Often we hear about a new school of thought from the world of presentation skills or public speaking. Experts in the art of persuasion seem to regularly unearth new and innovative ways of doing things that we’ve never heard of before. However these ‘new’ ways of thinking can often take the core of their teaching from innovators that have come before. Long before!
Throughout history speakers have employed a variety of basic skills when addressing the structure and effectiveness of their communications. Great orators like Cicero, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and even Hitler. They all had similar characteristics and structures when crafting their messages.
So, what are these similar characteristics?
Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle identified these three areas of rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, as ETHOS, PATHOS, and LOGOS. Famous and effective communicators have used these elements of rhetoric time and time again to persuade and win over their audiences.
Aristotle defined rhetoric as “…the faculty of discovering, in any particular case, all of the available means of persuasion.” He believed that you need all the means of persuasion to get people to trust you and advocated using all three of his main elements of rhetoric to do the job.
1. ETHOS or ‘Argument By Character’
Ethos uses the speaker’s personality, reputation, and ability to look trustworthy in order to persuade. It embodies goodwill, sincerity, credibility, commonality, and praise. ETHOS is used in advertisements all the time to establish credibility. For example, a car company stating that they’ve won safety awards for their cars. This shows overall virtue of the speaker and good will towards the audience. John F. Kennedy uses this to great effect in his inaugural speech in 1961.
2. PATHOS or ‘Argument By Emotion’
Pathos is the appeal to an audience’s sense of identity, self-interest, or sentiments. This involves contrast, energeia (vivid experience, making someone feel in the moment, feel what you feel), and emotion control. A great example of PATHOS is Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’ speech where he appeals to morals and human qualities common to us all. Humour can also be an effective form of persuasion here. It calms people down and creates common ground with an audience on an intuitive level.
3.LOGOS or ‘Argument By Logic’
Logos persuades by making areasonable claim and offering proof in support of that claim. Here we use the power of story, framing ideas, and proof. Concession can be an important tool of LOGOS as you use your opponent’s argument to your own advantage; by conceding the validity of your opponent’s argument, you show you are listening and seeing their side.
One of the most poignant examples of using all three of these disciplines for persuasion is in children’s television’s Fred Rogers’ (Mister Rogers) appeal to the U.S. senate committee. In an attempt to save PBS’ 20 million dollar annual funding when it was in danger of being slashed in half in 1969. Mr Rogers faced one of the toughest most cynical senators on the committee and won.
Scottish philosopher David Hume recognised that you can never change someone’s mind in an argument with just reasoning and logic. In his view, we are animals primarily motivated and influenced by our intuitions and emotions. The majority of our convictions don’t actually come from facts.
Human reasoning is a servant to intuition
Arguments – Dance Not War
In Western culture we often treat or frame arguments like fights or like war. We attack our opponent’s positions and defend our own. We gain and lose ground.
George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist, suggests that a more appropriate and conducive analogy is that of a dance. In this metaphor, we reach out to a person, we are opposites but we work together, we are cooperating. The argument becomes more about agreement than disagreement.
We don’t enter into an argument with someone unless we have some common interest with them to begin with. Instead of a war between good and evil, we can begin to think about rhetoric and persuasion as a dance between mutually interested groups.
When we fight, it is about winning. When we argue, it’s about winning over. “A fight never persuades, it only inspires revenge or retreat. An argument gets people to do what you want – it’s a means to a solution.” ( Jay Heinrichs, Thank You For Arguing)
Next time you craft a presentation, keep in mind the three areas of persuasion
ETHOS, PATHOS, AND LOGOS are passed down to us from the ancients and used by our greatest orators. Look to win over, not just win. Dance, don’t fight. It just might give you the edge in winning over your audience.
“ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private voice, executive presence and presenting programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.”
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We’ve all felt that surge of panic or anxiety when standing up in front of a group of people, about to talk. Your body is smart, it reacts to stress, panic, or fear and tells you that something is way out of your normal, daily realm of existence. So how do we turn this around so that what the audience see is a composed presenter oozing physical presence;
‘Yikes, I am not in Kansas anymore’
Public speaking – like physical training and sport – requires training and practice; You need to put in the time if you want to take advantage of those speaking opportunities when they come up and really knock it out of the park so you get the result you want.
So where to start? The answer lies in our Physical Presence
Our physical presence is one big piece of the presentation skills puzzle. Combined with vocal presence, it helps establish an emotional connection with the audience along with the words we say. In this, our first of two Amy Cuddy TED Talks, Amy speaks about the impact our body language has on our chances for success.
Listen To Your Gut
We’ve all been guided by our ‘gut instinct’ at some point and with good reason. Our bodies are intricately and acutely sensitive to how we react to the outside world. The brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of Neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback.
Most of the time we make decisions from our brain, our intellect, and forget about what the ‘other brain’- our gut, is telling us. Have you ever felt ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? The ones you might feel when you’re in the first stages of love or attraction? We feel the same butterflies when we’re nervous of a talk we’re about to give. So the next time you’re stuck when you’re preparing a presentation, ask yourself, ‘What do I really want to talk about? What is my gut saying?’.
What Do You Want Them To Feel?
The impact of non-verbal messages are much stronger than words because the audience remembers them more and for longer. So, ask yourself what you’ve seen recently that made a speaker memorable? Was it the words they said or how they made you feel? Remember, what you feel up there as a presenter is what the audience gets. It’s like a mirror: What you feel, they feel. If you want the audience to feel excited, then find a way to manifest that in your own body. If it’s happy, then embody happiness.
Fake It Till You Become It
We’ve all heard the old adage ‘Fake it till you make it’, but it’s actually ‘Fake it till you become it’. Amy Cuddy did another TED Talk about physical indicators and gives scientific evidence supporting the theory that what we do physically effects how we feel. For example, smiling instantly makes us feel better. Even if it’s a fake smile manufactured by holding a pen between our teeth, we still get a release of positive energy. On the other side, slouching can make us feel defeated or depressed. Standing in a grounded, aligned posture with shoulders relaxed, feet hip width apart, and chest open elicits feelings of confidence and positivity and you will immediately exude physical presence
See It And Feel It
Michael Phelps won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics because he was able to complete his heat without being able to see. His goggles filled up with water and he couldn’t see where he was going but because he had visualised that race over and over beforehand, he knew every stroke before he even got into the pool. This helped him be prepared for anything and when he couldn’t see, he didn’t panic.
In your preparation for a speech or presentation, sit down and breathe, close your eyes and see yourself giving your presentation See the room, feel where you’re going to move and when. See yourself smiling, see the audience. Go through every move so that when you actually present or go into the meeting, the situation is already familiar.
Prepare For Your Worst Case Scenario
This is a great one for dealing with nerves as well. Think of your worst case scenario, ie. losing your place or not remembering what comes next. Imagine it happening, and list the things you can do to deal with that situation. This way, if you feel prepared and can deal with the worst thing that could happen, then you be ready to handle anything else that comes along as well. Remember, it’s okay to make a mistake! It won’t effect your physical presence, in fact audiences are known to respond well to vulnerability. Itt makes you seem more human and helps them to connect with you.
Don’t wait until you step into the room for that high stakes meeting to prepare and put skills and techniques into place. Implement small changes beforehand and as you practice and prepare and you’ll reap the benefits tenfold. You’ll establish physical presence from the offset, be more able to connect with your audience, share your ideas, and get the results you want.
“ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.”
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We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in the conference room for a business presentation and you start to nod off. You zone out, you’ve stopped listening to the person up at the top of the room giving the presentation. Here are five key business presentation skills you can learn so that you can captivate your audience of staff or potential clients when it’s your turn to give one.
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
You know what a boring business presentation is like to sit through.
When the speaker’s voice has become so dull and annoying that it starts to sound like a mosquito buzzing in your ear.
But are you aware of the pitfalls so that you can avoid them next them you stand up to deliver a presentation?
Follow these five steps to avoid the Death by Monotony presentation.
First: How to Know What Makes a Boring Business Presentation
So what’s happening?
Most of the time this unfortunate situation arises because the presenter has fallen into the Monotony Trap.
They speak from one place in their voice in one rhythm and don’t vary either one at all, and this happens without them even knowing it.
Now, this could be someone your know. It could—let’s face it—even be you and you don’t even know it.
A monotone vocal delivery is one of the worst sins and most common mistakes you can make when it comes to public speaking. Luckily, there are lots of skills and voice coaching techniques you can implement to prevent it.
Here are just a few tips you can use to stay out of the monotony trap and keep your audience interested and engaged.
The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 1: Vary Your Pitch
Here’s one basic fact of physiology.
The ear needs to be entertained and kept interested
So first off, vary your pitch.
Pitch is your vocal range, it’s the movement in tone between the top of your vocal range and the bottom and everywhere in between. (We’ve written a whole article on pitch range and its importance here.)
As children, we naturally have a varied vocal range. As we learn to speak we explore the range of sound our voices can make.
Then as we grow older, something happens. We start to have opinions and start editing ourselves. We start to become self-conscious.
One big mistake we make is thinking that a deep, weighty, monotonous tone for credibility, maturity and gravity.
In short, we stop using the full range of our voices.
Experiment with your vocal range—it’s there for a reason. Remember that the ear needs to be entertained and kept interested so change it up, vary your tone, and use the full range of your vocal pitches.
Here’s a great example:
The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 2: Do Not Underestimate the Power Of Articulation & Pace
Next, make sure you’re articulating and speaking clearly and slowly.
It may seem obvious but do not underestimate the power of clarity.
We may have heard our message a hundred times but we forget our audience is hearing it for the first time. Everyone can afford to slow down their delivery.
We often rush and end up mumbling our words together because we want to get through the material as quickly as possible or are afraid of forgetting what we have to say next.
Think into your consonants, breathe, and you will slow down. This eliminates rushing and your audience will thank you for it.
The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 3: Use of Pause
Pause is perhaps the most effective and underused of voice coaching techniques.
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When was the last time you thought about your breathing? This morning? Yesterday? How about “Not at all”? Well, if you’re like most people the answer is most likely the latter: Not at all. If you’re keen to learn some techniques for great communication, here are five tips on breathing correctly to optimise your speaking, performance and leadership.
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
First off, if you don’t typically focus on breathing, don’t beat yourself up.
After all, it’s a pretty normal thing, because breathing is something our bodies do by themselves. It’s an involuntary function so whether or not we think about it, it happens anyway.
But I’m here to tell you that breathing is the number one tool for great communication, and spending the time to create good breathing habits and awareness will pay off in huge dividends in your meetings, speeches, and presentations.
Breathing is Vital for Great Communication
When it comes to your effectiveness as a speaker and communicator, good deep diaphragmatic breathing is your best friend.
Breathing is the one thing that voice coaches always, always, always bang on about!
We’re always trying to find new ways of telling you how important it is and what the benefits are of good, deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
And we tell you this with good reason.
Just look at the number of people who are taking yoga classes these days—it’s a revolution in mindfulness and deep breathing technique.
So What is Correct Breathing Anyway?
When you breathe from your belly, your lungs are expanding to their full capacity and the diaphragm, that dome shaped muscle at the bottom of your rib cage, moves down to allow the lungs to expand, and your belly moves out as a result.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a fancy term for breathing deeply from your belly, not high in your upper chest where your lungs are the smallest. Children breathe deeply and correctly from the womb, they don’t need to be taught. It’s completely instinctual.
So if we know how to do it, then why don’t we do it?!
Typically, life happens!
We start dealing with fears and insecurities and this often manifests itself as tension in the body, resulting in shallower breathing.
As a result, we have to re-learn how to breathe naturally.
It is quite simple, but is it easy?
Actually, to do it effectively it takes practice.
Check out this video.
So why bother learning to breathe deeply and more naturally? What are the benefits of breathing correctly when it comes to speaking and presenting?
Actually, there are quite a few. Simple dedication to practising breathing correctly can ensure that you have great communication skills.
Breathing for Great Communication, 1: It’s Premium Fuel
Your voice needs fuel to perform at its best and breath is that fuel.
It supports the sound and helps to protect your voice from harm.
When you breathe deeply from the belly, you’re getting a bigger, higher quality of breath to fuel your vocal sound.
Breathing for Great Communication, 2: Think Clearly
Your brain needs fuel to run at its best too.
Good, deep breathing helps to get oxygen to the brain and supports clear thinking, so when you feel like you’re freezing or panicking because you can’t remember what comes next in your speech or presentation, take a moment to pause and breathe.
It gives you a moment to clear your head and remember the next thought.
Breathing for Great Communication, 3: Obey The Speed Limit
When we take time to pause and breathe, we automatically slow down our delivery.
Everyone, without exception, can afford to slow down. A good delivery pace gives both you and the audience time to breathe and process information.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
Breathing for Great Communication, 4: Keep It Grounded
Breathing down in your belly, or ‘chi’ centre – as it’s referred to in martial arts – helps to centre your energy and gives you a sense of being grounded and balanced. When your energy is more grounded and balanced, you are able to be more present in the moment. Being more present in the moment means being more connected to our audience.
Breathing for Great Communication, 5: Fight Or Flight
Getting nervous is largely due to irrational fears and that ancient ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain that kicks in to save us from a situation that our brain perceive as threatening, ie. getting up in front of a bunch of people and speaking. Conscious, deep breathing, tricks the brain into calming down. It sends the rest of your body the message that everything’s ok and there’s no need to panic.
Our bodies already know how to breathe properly; we’re just reawakening the muscle memory that becomes lost over many years of bad habits.
I could talk about the theories behind good breathing technique and the benefits from practicing it until the cows come home. Learning a few simple techniques and practicing them on a consistent basis is the only way to truly experience the treasure trove of benefits that good, centred breathing can bring to you as a speaker and communicator.
Small Changes Reap Huge Benefits
So, tomorrow when you’re going through your day just take a moment every now and then and check in with yourself;
Am I holding my breath?
Am I breathing?
And take a few deep breaths.
A wise man once told me:
Life is like breathing. If you try and hold it, you’ll lose it. But if you’re aware and let it come and go, you’ll always be connected to it.
When we are breathing we are more present in the moment. The more present we are, the more effective we are as communicators because we are able to connect more fully with our audience.
So start breathing. The results—such as great communication!—might surprise you!
ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.
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There’s a lot to be learned from studying the presentations and public speaking techniques of some of the world’s great leaders. Here we take a look at an Elon Musk presentation, and ask: Despite a number of obvious flaws in his technique, what makes his presentations so popular?
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
So, a few things about Elon Musk straight off the bat.
Musk is rich, he’s passionate about his projects and he’s most probably a genius!
And yet when he gets in front of an audience he can turn into a public speaking car crash.
He gave a presentation earlier this year outlining his very ambitious plans for rocket company SpaceX.
SpaceX plans to land an unmanned spaceship on Mars in 2022. (It will then start preparing for human visitors to arrive two years later!)
That presentation garnered him a lot of social media attention, but for the wrong reasons: there was his stammering, and his style of delivery, which was clunky and awkward.
And yet that long speech was watched over 400,000 times online less than 24 hours after it was posted.
So the question is.
Why are we still interested in watching an Elon Musk presentation when so much of his delivery is soooooo bad?
Well, here are a few insights that might make sense of this bizarre dichotomy of brilliance and bumbling.
1. He Gives You The Why Before the What
Elon Musk does big plans big style – humans on Mars in just a few years!
He tells you WHY his projects are important right off the bat.
When he outlined the SpaceX plan to go to Mars, he tells you ‘why’ it’s important before he tells you the ‘what’.
In this case, that SpaceX will ensure the survival of humans as a species and to inspire the belief that the future will be better than the past. He always gives his audience a reason to listen and engage with him.
2. Master the Art of Imperfection to Master the Art of Authentic Presenting
Musk is very good at making his audience feel like he’s just like them, that we’re all in it together, so his stammering and stumbling actually doesn’t bother us so much.
Many great speakers, like Steve Jobs for instance, talk as if they’re on a higher plane and that they’ve got everything perfectly down pat and present you with a finished product. That’s great and we buy into it.
But Musk does the opposite. He tells you that he and his employees have been figuring things out. He shares with you how a product crashed and burned and landed in the ocean. Musk lets us know that he has failed more than he’s succeeded.
That shows us Elon Musk’s humanity, and we love people who are human. Perfection is overrated, this is authentic presenting.
Musk and other imperfect speakers may not have the best delivery on the planet but they can make up for it with vulnerability,honesty, and passion for their subject. You can teach techniques for great delivery, but it’s mighty hard to manufacture real, honest feeling.
TAKEAWAY: Next time you present, be sincere and your audience will follow you anywhere, regardless of how much you stumble or stammer.
3. Elon Musk is the Definition of an Authentic Presenter: What You See is What You Get
True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. Not false or imitation.
Musk gets down to brass tacks, lets the audience know that he’s down-to-earth and vulnerable, and lets his feelings show about what inspires him.
The idea of living out amongst the stars excites him and he tells the audience exactly that. He is telling us his dream—and audiences love people who follow their dreams.
Especially when it led them to become billionaire entrepreneurs.
There’s a lot to be said for credibility when presenting. Sometimes we gain credibility because of our position or from the amount of money we have or how many accolades we’ve collected. All these factors do carry a certain weight and give the speaker gravitas, ensuring they have a better chance to get the audience on-side before they’ve even stepped on stage.
Yet when it comes down to it, two things will always sway an audience.
Great delivery, and humanity.
TAKEAWAY: Next time you get up in front of an audience, give them a clear, confident, credible delivery and you’re on your way to a winner. Give them humanity, vulnerability, and passion in addition to that and you’re on your way to home-run World Series victory.
Here’s the full Elon Musk presentation from SpaceX. Watch for yourself
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But specifically on her phenomenal Golden Globes performance, allow me to break down and analyse the vocal delivery techniques Oprah used to ensure her message was loud and clear.
These are delivery techniques that you too can take into your speeches and presentations.
1. Showing up Authentically is a Key Vocal Delivery Technique
There is no question with this speech, Oprah delivered her message with authenticity and honesty.
The reality is that any audience will connect and engage with people who are truly themselves. Yes, the content is emotive, but you really get a sense that she truly believes her message.
Once there is authenticity in your message, then strong vocal techniques will be easier to access.
When you deliver a business presentation, how authentic are you with your audience? Or do you drop into presenter mode? Because, so many do.
Ahead of your next presentation, consider these two questions carefully:
What do you feel about your message to the audience?
What do you want your audience to feel about your message?
“Feel?” I hear you ask!
Not what you want them to know and understand, but what you want them to FEEL.
Do you want them to feel excited, curious, frustrated, sad? Whatever that feeling is, you need to think carefully about it, as it needs to be conveyed in your vocal delivery.
2. Great use of timing. She combines pause and pace brilliantly.
The space between your thoughts can be as powerful as the thoughts themselves. She makes great use of pause throughout her speech.
With such strong words she understands her audience needs this time to process her message. Pause is used to strong dramatic effect also.
We can implement pauses to gain different effects.
When we pause before a word or phrase, it creates the classic tension/release.
If we pause after, it allows the audience a moment for the information to sink in.
As opposed to highlighting specific examples in this speech I would simply urge you to listen to the full ten minutes for her use of pause.
It requires bravery for any presenter to accept that silence. If we trust the pause we will hold a listener’s attention.
There is no question about this. It’s so compelling.
When we use pauses, we can also vary the pace of our delivery and the two go hand in hand.
Varying our pace and using the power of pause keeps the rhythm of our vocal delivery varied and keeps the ear from falling asleep.
You can hear throughout this speech she varies pace – for important statements, you’ll hear she slows right down to emphasise the importance of her words. You’ll hear increases the pace to create energy.
For your next presentation, accept the silence.
Try this useful Tempo Technique to engage your audience
Speed up the tempo before you make that important point
Then slow down to deliver it
It carries your listeners forward and then make them wait. It’s a classic tension/release at work. It takes practice, but it’s a very clever device, and it’s powerful.
(Example: Listen to 5.00-5.16 minutes in Oprah’s speech)
3. The Power of Your Consonants in Vocal Delivery
This is where the voice geek in me comes out!
They don’t get much airtime, but consonants can really work for us when we speak and they are used well in Oprah’s speech.
They can grab our listeners’ attention and hold onto it. I believe they give speech emphasis and intent. People often think that they need to speak louder to make their messages stand out, but this is not the case.
I think by Oprah focusing on her consonants she really drives home her message throughout. Any time you want to drive home a point, implant a thought, do it by giving more thought to the consonants in your words. They will make what you say more effective and dynamic.
Try this useful Consonant Technique to drive your message home.
Lengthen the consonants in the word or syllable you want to emphasise.
This creates the illusion of being louder by bringing everything to a halt while we wait for that word.
4. The Importance of Power words: What They Are, and How to Make Them Powerful
All words are not created equally.
When we speak we do not pronounce each and every word and syllable with the same importance.
It is so evident in Oprah’s speech.
If you want your audience to listen and engage then you need to understand
What are power words, and
How to give these power words the power!
Power words are the 1-3 words in each phase or sentence that absolutely reduce it down to its basic meaning.
They communicate the essence of what we are saying.
These words require more time more emphasis, more vocal importance, if they are to resonate with the audience.
But how does Oprah do this? And how do we do it?
First things first: like Oprah does, you need to be authentically communicating your message. To be really connected to and truly believe your message.
Change of volume: Listen how Oprah either increases or decreases volume on specific power words
Pitch variation: She changes the pitch on certain power words to highlight and bring importance to them—she makes them stand out
Articulation: She will overly articulate certain consonants in the power words to bring the word out further—lest the audience forget!
Change of pace: She tends to speed up and then slows down on her power words/phrases.
Pause: She will pause before or after key power words
Try combinations of any of the above.
They are vital to a strong vocal delivery – that will be listened to and understood by your audience.
You can hear examples of Oprah using power words effectively throughout her speech, but skip to 8.00 mins and onwards for a series of great examples, such as:
“ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning“
“even during our darkest nights“
“when that new day finally dawns”
“the time when nobody has to say me too again”
5. Mastering the Skill of the “Clap Trap” is One of the Best Vocal Delivery Techniques
She doesn’t wait for the applause and she doesn’t wait for clapping to stop before she continues. Pausing and waiting for the audience to clap is a faux pas, it removes the sense of spontaneity. Carrying on with her message and refusing the applause implies that she is not expecting a clap, she is more focused on her message than herself. A speaker always needs to be more committed to the message than to accepting praise. This she does very well throughout her speech
Skip to minutes 2:22, 3:22 and 7:02 to see Oprah do this.
Be under no illusions, Oprah would most certainly have practiced and rehearsed this speech many times to refine her vocal delivery techniques.
It would have been a shame to have a great message delivered poorly. My message to you is that it’s not enough to have a strong message—your vocal delivery needs to support that importance of your message.
So, finally, record yourself when you’re preparing and practicing your words.
It is the only way you can hear exactly what you sound like and then you can make changes accordingly.
Are your showing up authentically in your speech?
Are you using pause and pace combined to engage your audience?
How are you making your power words standout and be POWERFUL?
Are you giving Consonants the importance they deserve?
Finally, don’t fall into claptrap mistakes!
Here’s Oprah’s Full Speech
ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.
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