Are You Appealing to Your Audience?
“There is no such thing as presentation talent, it is called presentation skills”– David JP Phillips
Dr. Albert Mehrabian (1939-) is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He believes there are three core elements in the effective face-to-face communication of emotions or attitudes: nonverbal behavior (facial expressions, for example), tone of voice, and the literal meaning of the spoken word. Drawing on the findings of two experiments he conducted in 1967, he formulated the 7-38-55% communication rule.
After analyzing data from his experiments, Dr. Mehrabian’s concluded the contribution of nonverbal behavior (facial expressions, for example), tone of voice, and the literal meaning of the spoken word to the effective face-to-face communication of emotions or attitudes is 55%, 38%, and 7%, respectively.
By using this information as a speaker, you can have an enormous effect on your audience’s emotions and attitudes toward your presentation subject.
Let’s explore your nonverbal behavior, tone of voice, and the literal meaning of the words you speak in your presentations.
Your Nonverbal Behavior (55%)
Nonverbal behavior is probably the least practiced part of presentations for most speakers. It may be for you also.
However, now that you know your nonverbal behavior’s effect on your audience’s emotions and attitudes concerning your subject, it behooves you to practice nonverbal behavior that adds to your presentation and does not detract from it.
You want to avoid nonverbal behavior that distracts your audience from your message. There are numerous distracting nonverbal behaviors. You probably already know them. You have seen them in other speakers. You may even realize you exhibit them also. Some of these distracting nonverbal behaviors are:
Rocking your body side to side and back and forth
Fiddling with something in your hand like a pen, a computer remote, or a piece of paper with your notes
Looking at your slide rather than your audience while you are talking
The flip side of these distracting nonverbal behaviors are ones that emphasize different parts of your presentation:
Your natural gestures
Your natural facial expressions
Your meaningful movement
Don’t underestimate the effect of your nonverbal behaviors on your audience.
In preparing for your presentations, ask someone to sit in on a dry run and then ask them what were your distracting nonverbal behaviors. They will always be there. Knowing they are there is half the battle. Practice not doing these.
Build into your presentation preparation, nonverbal behaviors that add to your message.
Another part of your presentation that has a very large effect on your audience is your tone of voice.
Your Tone of Voice (38%)
Properly placing changes in your tone of voice can have an enormously positive effect on your audience. Changes in your tone of voice have the same effect on your audience as pauses or changes in the rate of your speaking: it refocuses the audience on your message.
Below are a few examples of the effect on your audience of the change of your tone of voice:
A higher pitched tone of voice indicates excitement in your presentation. Perhaps your presentation has a story about riding on a roller coaster. A higher pitched tone of voice would portray the thrill of the ride better rather than a lower pitched tone of voice.
Your normal speaking voice is fine for conveying information you want your audience to absorb
A lower pitched tone of voice indicates seriousness. For example, if you are talking about a serious subject such as unemployment, a lower pitched tone of voice will play better with your audience rather than a higher pitched tone of voice.
So, according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, your nonverbal behaviors and your tone of voice have the majority of effect on the face-to-face communication of emotions or attitudes with your audience.
Even though lesser in effect, the meanings of your spoken words also have an effect on your audience.
Your Spoken Words (7%)
There are a number of ways to analyze the effect of your spoken words on your audience.
You may currently be a parent or at the very least, if you are not, I am sure you were once children. If you are not a parent think about how your parent talked to you differently depending on your age.
As a parent, we talk to our children using words they understand at the time we are talking to them. You wouldn’t use an eighth grade students vocabulary to talk to your three-year-old daughter. Conversely, you would not talk to your eighth grader using the vocabulary of a three-year-old.
It is the same with your audience. Do you find out the lexicon used by your audience before you decide the words you will speak in your presentation? If you don’t, there are three different outcomes that can occur: (1) your vocabulary may be too simple for your audience, (2) your vocabulary may be just right for your audience, or (3) your vocabulary may be far too advanced for your audience.
The second effect is what you should be shooting for, but you will have no idea if you are using the right vocabulary for your particular audience unless you determine how knowledgeable your audience is on your subject.
One way to find out is to ask the event planner what knowledge your audience has on your subject.
Another way is to ask the event planner if there have been similar topics presented to this audience. If so, ask the event planner if you can view the recording of the previous presentation. Observe the vocabulary used by the speaker and the reactions of his or her audience.
Finally, a third way is to ask the event planner if you can talk to some people that will be in the audience prior to your presentation.
Your nonverbal behaviors, tone of voice, and the words you speak during your presentation have an inordinate effect on your audience.
Practicing the appropriate nonverbal behaviors, tone of voice, and the words you will speak before your presentation will have an inordinate effect on your message to your audience.
Isn’t that what you want? Your audience has received your intended message loud and clear!
Call to Action
In preparing for your presentations, ask someone to sit in on a dry run and then ask them if any of your nonverbal behaviors was distracting. They will always be there. Practice not doing these. Build into your presentation preparation, nonverbal behaviors that support your message.
Use the appropriate tone of voice that fits the point you are making in your presentation – lower pitched voice to convey excitement, normal pitched voice to convey information, lower pitched voice to convey seriousness.
Speak the words in your presentation that are appropriate for your audience. Find out what vocabulary in your presentation is appropriate before your presentation. Practice using this appropriate vocabulary during your presentation preparation
“Ask yourself, ‘If I had only sixty seconds on the stage, what would I absolutely have to say to get my message across.”– Jeff Dewar
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