I’ve had clients from almost all well-known industries across different hierarchical levels in the last five years. They all want to present themselves well, but surprisingly they mainly worry about ‘what’ they want to say rather than ‘how’ they want to say. Now there could be multiple reasons for this. Our academic institutes hardly focus on the presentation aspects, our parents never seem to stress over how we present ourselves, and they too seem to be immersed in our grades and marks. And especially women are never encouraged to express openly through their body language. Basically, nobody seems to have any particular interest in how we talk, look, behave, and respond. There is a fundamental flaw in this approach. As the famous author Elizabeth Gilbert talks in her book ‘Big Magic’ that pretty much everything that is happening in this world has already been done in some form or the other. There aren’t any ground-breaking, genuinely creative ideas and procedures. We are all doing the same things slightly differently. And when you have to do something differently, your entire approach has to change, your entire body should act and respond differently and that’s how things are done in a different way. So without much ado, I would like to go straight to my top five strategies to deliver fabulous presentations at work:
Multiple researches indicate that our brain is like a hungry toddler, almost always seeking attention. The brain can get into a dull sleepy mode every 30 to 45 minutes. So one way you can attract attention is to have an amazing expression in your voice. As a woman, you must bring out the coarse texture of your voice to sound more powerful. Replay Sushmita Sen’s voice in your head. Doesn’t she sound completely in control? That’s the kind of voice you must aim for. Research by MIT in USA states that when you talk like a story teller, people listen to you more intently because your vocal chords modulate up, down, soft, and loud. This also makes you sound more interesting. The other thing to keep in mind is your rate of speech – how fast or slow you speak. Ideally, you should speak almost 20 per cent slower than your normal rate of speech when addressing a group of people. The slower your talking speed, the easier it is for others to comprehend your message because you end up sounding more clear.
You can have an unbelievable advantage over others when you use your hand gestures while presenting. Research indicates that you sound more energetic, impactful, and believable when you use hand gestures. I can explain why. When you bring your hands close to your torso or chest area, your heart rate increases relatively, as more blood reaches the heart. This makes you feel more energetic.
You can use the famous steeple hand gesture while presenting. This is one of the most neutral hand gestures and makes you look very confident. Your impact increases when you say something and back it with an action (in this case, your hand movement); your point is more affirmative and clear and you end up making your point with a lot more conviction.
Your body posture is the next big thing to consider during presentations. If you stand closed feet with closed arms, your body starts releasing cortisol (the stress hormone) and in no time, the signals are sent to others. I suggest an open body stance. As a woman, you must stand hip width apart with open hand gestures and wide shoulders. This adds to your presence. Basically, the more space you claim, more dominant is your presence. This stance is also known as ‘power posing’. Search for a video of power posing on the Internet and you would know the meaning of it.
Power point presentation
If you have to regularly deliver presentations to VC’s or at work, your content must not be very textual in nature. Research indicates that a fairly small percentage of people in this world learn through auditory and textual means, while majority learn faster through visual-spatial. So you must ensure that your presentation has key points which can further be elaborated by you. This can only be possible if you have practiced your presentation at least once or twice. The practice gives you better ideas and you end up presenting in a ‘story-telling’ format rather than the usual rhetoric. Remember, people always relate to stories and examples rather than theory. Also, focus on the closure. The end should only be a summary of all the main points discussed. This works as a great refresher for your audience who are overwhelmed with information. And if you are an entrepreneur, this becomes even more important because you have limited time to present tons of things. Keeping room for a quick recap is a very smart strategy. This shows your level of preparedness and makes you look like a thorough professional. This also makes it easier for the audience to ask you relevant questions as it refreshes their memory.
I’m not going to get into the formal or casual theory, you know enough of that already. You must, however, keep the colours in mind. Go for wardrobe neutral colours as they don’t look too bright or dull. By the way there is no colour that you can’t wear, you just have to keep in mind what type of colour looks good on you. For example, you cannot say that you don’t like red, because chances are that you might like a certain shade of pink or maroon, both of which come from the red colour family. Also, whatever body type you have, opt for straight cuts when you dress for a business presentation. Straight cuts depict structure and formality. Avoid snug fit clothes or anything that you are not used to wearing. That will make you very conscious and uncomfortable. You must incorporate accessories like a simple neck pieces, scarves, or small earrings. These can uplift your overall look and add the desired colour to your outfit.
About the Author – Shreya Dhingra is a Certified Image Coach, and the Founder of Your Image and I – an image communication consultancy where Shreya works with individual and corporate clients to build their personal and professional image through better people skills, voice patterns, body language and wardrobe. Shreya is an MBA by qualification and worked in the retail and media industry for three years before starting up five years ago.
(image credit – shutterstock)