Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Your Pre-Speech Communication Matters...A Lot

I distinctly remember one of my undergraduate Speech professors, Dr. Barbara Mendoza of St. John's University telling me one day, "Your presentation begins the moment your ass leaves the seat". I was stunned by her use of the word ass as it was completely out of character for this ladylike figure whose charm was considerable and who was unlike anyone I had ever encountered in my blue-collar upbringing. She was the first person I ever met who had a maid!

But her words left an impression, so much so that I still share them with my students nearly 30 years later.

From the minute you rise from your seat and approach the front of the room, you are "on". The audience watches you, sizes you up, and makes judgments before you've ever opened your mouth or begun your presentation. Fairly or unfairly, that's just the way it is.

As such it is important that we send all the right messages, because they set the stage and for all that follows in our actual speech. So here are a few dos and don'ts in those oh-so-important moments before your speech.

Do smile and exude warmth and friendliness. Likability is a powerful force to have going for you. If your audience likes you they will forgive your imperfections (and we all have them). The "halo effect"--the tendency to see only the good in people we hold in positive regard--is a real phenomenon and we should do our best to cultivate it.

Don't engage in negative self talk or self deprecating remarks. Never try to set the expectation bar low with negative predictions about your performance or presentation.

Do know how to work the equipment you will be expecting to use, whether PowerPoint or document camera, or whatever. Incompetence is not the message you want to send. It wastes time, and your audience's time is valuable. Arrive early and learn to use the equipment, don't engage in trial and error on the audience's time.

Don't tell us how nervous you are.

Do pause momentarily and look at your audience before beginning. Take command of the room before beginning. Nervous people want to rush to begin. Poised speakers know that the show doesn't start until they decide it starts.

Finally, start with a genuine attention-getting device not an announcement of your topic. (For more on how to start your speech see this ).

Then do a kick-ass presentation!

Do you have more suggestions? Feel free to add them in the Comments section below.

That's all for today friends. As always, be well, speak well, and thank you for reading!

For more information about Dan Leyes and his consulting work see Semiosphere Consulting.