You have to be quiet to be heard. I know it’s counter-intuitive, almost oxy-moronic. but truly, as presenters we must avoid the non-verbal and verbal things we do that speak so loudly our message can’t be heard. We must quiet our bodies, our hands, our feet and even the sounds coming out of our mouths.
Non-verbally, people make all kinds of unproductive noise when they’re presenting. they fiddle with their clothing, play with their hair, click a pen, pace back and forth. If we do any of these things once or twice, no biggie. No audience member will be distracted by the occasional anything. On the other hand, if we are doing something repeatedly, either verbal or non-verbal, that becomes very distracting. SO distracting that it’s the only thing the audience sees or hears. Here are some common non-verbal audience distractors – and how to avoid them.
clothes play: Women have a tendency to repeatedly cover the upper part of their torsos. If a woman is wearing a cardigan, she will continually wrap herself in it. Same with a blazer, a vest, even a shawl or scarf. I’ve no idea where the insecurity about our upper torsos comes from, but if you are reading this and think, “Uh, oh, this sounds like me.”, here’s a tip: STOP wearing clothes that make you feel exposed, insecure or self-conscious. (I’m betting you look great – but that’s for another day.) Especially when you’re presenting, you must be wearing something in which you feel absolutely INVINCIBLE. Like you could jump tall buildings in a single bound.
Men, same goes for you. Whatever you’re wearing should be well-fitting (I cannot tell you how many men I’ve seen stand up to speak and attempt to button their suit or sport coat. Unfortunately, they bought it when they were a 42 and now they’re, well, more like a 46…) and wrinkle free.
If you’d like to begin your presentation with a hand in a pocket, go ahead. MAKE SURE, however, that you’ve emptied your pockets on change and keys… And only one hand in one pocket, please, Otherwise you’ll be waving your elbows like a bird about to take flight.
Pens that click: If you’re like me – and have tons of energy – avoid pens that have the clicking apparatus. When I’m holding one of those things I’m clicking so much I could easily be sending Morse Code. Way way way distracting.
Dancing feet: Moving around on the stage, or even in the audience is great. I’m a big fan of purposeful movement. Just beware that you’re not endlessly, aimlessly moving to release nervous energy. No box step, no cha-cha, no shuffling. move somewhere deliberately and then stay put; deliver a point and then move again. Try and stand still the first minute or two of your presentation. This is when the audience’s attention is ramping up; they’re trying to get to know you a little. Don’t make yourself a moving target.
Be mindful of your movement the next time you’re presenting. The more quiet your body, the more deliberate your movement, the more you’ll be heard.