When two people are engaged in conversation, you can certainly tell. In conversations, both parties appear to be engaged, attentive, and reciprocating even when only one person is talking. It isn’t long before the silent party agrees with a head nod, smiles in agreement, or fires back angry verbiage in the case of an argument. I’ve mentioned for years that presentations are like conversations. In both cases you must:
- Word for maximum impact
- Tailor your message to whom you are talking to
- Engage the listener
- Adapt to listener feedback
I got to thinking about that last point, the listener feedback. While researching communication responses, I realized that when in friendly conversation with a single person, or even multiple people, only one person is talking, but the other individual(s) are silently responding nonverbally.
When it comes to presentations, most people believe the opposite. It is easy to look at the situation and see one person speaking to a group of people who are blankly staring back. Even if it appears as though the presenter is speaking to inanimate objects, that’s not what is actually happening.
When the presenter is speaking for a duration of time and the audience isn’t responding verbally, instead they are responding with non-verbal cues. Those non-verbal cues include head nods, reciprocating eye contact, smiles, and even note taking. These are all silent hints that the audience is not only listening, but also actively participating in a two-way conversation.
This is how a presenter can gauge how involved an audience is, or maybe they aren’t involved at all and something needs to happen quickly! Listeners are able to actively participate in the conversation when others are speaking with them and not at them. Presentations also work in this way, one party is speaking and the other is silently listening and responding.
This is the perfect, non-threatening situation that all presenters wish to walk into for their presentation. It is something that doesn’t just happen, it must be set up by the presenter during the event.
In your next conversation with friends, notice how you lively and animated both your voice and expression are in response. It is likely that all aspects of your voice including volume, pitch, and tone change when truly involved in a conversation. Those are the aspects of a friendly conversation that need to be brought into your presentation. You must consciously incorporate these conversation skills into your presentation to sound like your true person and not an actor trying too hard to be the perfect pitchman.
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