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the air and waiting for it to come down again before you catch it and continue. Pauses help your audience to take

in important points you make. For example, if someone mentions that their company has doubled its sales in the past year or has just announced a new product, they should stop talking. Tere can be an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds – but that is all it is – as the audience is made to think about what has just been said. When the speaker makes a big announcement or claim but just carries on speaking without a pause for breath, the emphasis is lost. But presenters need the confidence to stop talking and to value the silence in the room. When someone is rehearsing

their presentation, they should experiment with tone and pitch. Tis will add energy to a speech. Energy is a vital ingredient to engage an audience, however large or small. Your voice can also expose

your nerves and show whether you really want to be there, as well as your passion, or lack of it, for your subject. You don’t want to sound tired and bored, even if that’s the way you are feeling. If you do, your audience will react negatively. Presenters need to remind themselves how they feel when they have watched a lethargic speaker. Energy can be lost when someone

relies too much on their notes or reads from a PowerPoint. You need a sense of a ‘script’ of course, but trust your knowledge of your subject and your expertise so you speak naturally, and never be afraid to ad-lib.

Body language

Your body language can let you down when presenting. Tis extends to how someone enters a room. Like a theatre audience watching a character enter from the wings who has yet to speak, they make a judgment. Do they like the character? What are they wearing? What might they do next? In a business presentation

environment, people will make similar judgments. Does the person entering the room, or coming to the front to talk about their team’s performance, look nervous, shy or over-confident? Tey will also critique how someone leaves the room or how they act once they have finished presenting and sit down.

Walk into a room or to the podium

in a neutral way. Be confident and professional. Centre yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart and stand tall. Imagine a piece of string at the back and top of your head gently pulling you up, and roots in your feet keeping you steady on the ground. Tis will help your posture and ensure you look more confident. Make eye contact with

everyone, but do not linger on one audience member as this will make them feel uncomfortable.


How someone moves during a presentation can also help to engage an audience. A presenter does not want to be randomly parading around, but subtle moves can be very powerful. For example, moving away from the

lectern or the screen and towards the audience can be a sign of inclusiveness. A move can also demonstrate that a presenter has finished one point and is going on to make another.

Combining voice and body language

Tere are some powerful techniques to help presenters combine their tone of voice and body language. Te Russian acting guru Stanislavski believed that an actor needed help with this and he created the ‘circles of attention’. Te presenter needs to think of

three imaginary circles. Tey switch between the circles during their presentation. Tey do not physically move, but in their minds they are either in circle one, two or three. Circle one is when they might

be conveying bad news or something serious. Tis is known in the acting world as Solitude in Public and the presenter is effectively talking to just one person, although everyone can hear them. Circle two is a more general speech

where the presenter is addressing a few people in front of him, and circle three is when he needs to speak proudly to the entire room, effectively talking to those at the back of the room. Circle three is a great place to be when talking about something positive or the plans for the next year. Switching between these circles depending on the content will add light and shade to anyone’s presenta- tion and take the audience with them.

Handling difficult questions

Finally, there is the potentially disastrous question-and-answer section when someone’s presentation can go horribly wrong. Tey may have rehearsed their speech many times but, once control is handed to the audience, anything can happen. Tere are techniques that are used

in media training which are effective here. One is call Bridging which is a simple A, B, C, D, E technique. You Acknowledge the question, build a verbal Bridge so you can Communicate a positive message and then Develop your point with an Example.

Presenters need the confidence to stop talking and to value the silence in the room

For instance, someone in the audience might say that the presenter’s product is too expensive. Te response could be: “I’m surprised to hear you say that

(the Acknowledgement), in fact (the Bridge), we have worked with some of the country’s biggest companies for more than ten years and they would not have stayed with us unless they felt they were getting great value for money (Communication of the positive message: ‘value’). For example, Widgets Ltd has used our services since 2006 and seen a 10 per cent return on its spend with us every single year (De- veloping the point with an Example). Presenters need to feel confident

from the moment they walk into the room or stand up to speak, to the moment they leave or sit down. Actors know how nerve-racking talking in front of others can be when the attention is entirely on them, which is why innovative but technical training solutions taken from the performing arts industry can work so well in a business context.

Steve Hemsley is a journalist, content writer, media trainer and director of training company Hendrix the Dog Productions. He can be contacted at

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