Is Your Rhetorical Toolbox Well-Stocked?
“Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men”– Plato, Greek Philosopher
When you create your slides for your presentations, you are only preparing a part of your presentation. Remember, your slides and other visual methods are only there to support your narrative – what you say and how you say it during your presentation.
Notice I said communication and did not say the words you are using. This is because the words you use are only one part of your communication. The other two parts of your communication are your body language and vocal variety (pitch, volume, and pace).
In this article, we will explore how your body language, vocal variety, and the accuracy of your words and supporting visuals contribute to your successful presentation.
Use Positive Body Language
The use of positive body language cannot be overemphasized in contributing to your successful presentation.
Positive body language shows respect for your audience, authenticity, and enthusiasm for your subject. But what exactly do we mean by positive body language?
Although not sufficient, respecting your audience is essential for your successful presentation. Some ways to do this with your body language are to show you are listening to your audience by good eye contact with the audience member who is talking, leaning forward to show you are trying to understand the audience member, and moving a bit closer to the audience member to focus and know what they are saying.
Think about when you are having a conversation with another person. How do you feel when the other person is not looking at you directly? You probably think the other person doesn’t care about what you say. You should never treat an audience member this way.
Think about when you were in school, and an exciting topic was being discussed. My guess is you were probably leaning forward. Leaning a bit forward when listening to an audience member shows you are interested in and “tuned in” to what they are saying. It shows respect to your audience.
These body movements are not lost on other audience members. As a speaker, you are “in a fishbowl.” Everyone is observing you. Using positive body language puts you in a favorable light with your audience.
Body language is not the only speaking tool available to you right now.
Your speaking’s vocal variety (pitch, volume, and pace) directly contributes to your successful presentation.
Use Vocal Variety to “Spice Up” Your Presentation
So, how does vocal variety directly contribute to a successful presentation?
Your voice’s pitch, volume, and pace give your audience clues to what is essential in your presentation.
The pitch of your voice can instill excitement, seriousness, and emotions of sadness, joy, and contentment in your audience. For instance:
If your voice is high-pitched, you will instill excitement
If your voice is deep and sonorous, you will instill seriousness
If your voice pitch is middle-pitched but trembling, you will instill sadness
The volume of your voice can be used to tune your audience into your message. For instance:
>If your voice suddenly goes higher in volume, your audience will be more attentive to what you are saying
If your voice suddenly goes lower in volume, your audience will also be more attentive to what you are saying
If your voice goes high and then low, you will again cause your audience to be more attentive to what you are saying
You can use the pace of your voice to emphasize certain parts of your presentation. For instance,
Make your voice pace slower if you want your audience to pay special attention to what you are saying
Make your voice pace faster if you want to instill excitement in your audience
Make your voice pace vary if you want to fight boredom in your audience.
Vocal variety makes a massive difference in your presentation. Use it. It is available to you all the time.
So, your body language and vocal variety directly affect your speaking.
However, you also have to ensure what you are saying is accurate.
Ensure What You Say is Accurate
Your body language may be superb. Your vocal variety may be sparkling, but the previous two rhetorical devices will not make a difference if you get your facts wrong when you speak. You will appear sloppy to your audience.
Audiences expect you to be accurate. Therefore, when you voice your opinion, ensure you state it is so.
Let me mention something to those Type As like me who like to be super accurate.
My daughter and I were talking about Ireland a few weeks ago. She asked me what the population of Ireland was. I said I thought it was about five million people. She “Googled” it. She found there are 4.995 million people in Ireland. Now was my answer of five million people accurate? Not totally, but it was “close enough.” For all intents and purposes, it was accurate.
For purposes of you making a point in your presentation, “close enough” is accurate enough. Yes, there will always be a person or two in your audience that will object to you saying Ireland has five million people as opposed to the correct number of 4.995 million. However, by and large, your audience will accept your five million number as accurate.
Now, the following are some examples of inaccuracy:
You portray something as accurate as you heard on the radio or TV. But unfortunately, the initial “facts” are often inaccurate, especially in news stories.
You state the course our politicians should take in running your town, county, or state. This is your opinion, no matter how strongly you feel about it. Your arguments may be valid, but it is still your opinion and not a fact.
You state something from a political poll as accurate. Political polls have a long history of inaccuracy. Don’t state them as facts.
So, you need to distinguish whether what you are saying is either fact or your opinion.
Brian Mudd is a talk show host in Philadelphia. He says, “There may be two or more opinions on a subject, but there is only one set of facts.”
Ensure your facts are just that – accurate.
So, your body language, vocal variety, and the accuracy of the facts you state are all tools readily available for you to use in your presentations.
Are you using them now in your presentations?
Call to Action
In your future presentations:
Use positive body language to show respect for your audience, authenticity, and enthusiasm for your subject.
Use pitch, volume, and pace of your voice to give your audience clues to what is essential in your presentation.
Be accurate and consistently distinguish between facts and your opinion
Rhetoric (n.) “The art of identifying and using the best available means in a given situation to ethically persuade an audience.” – Aristotle, Greek Philosopher
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”