10 Presentation Tips: Tip No. 6 — Bring the Energy!

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This is the sixth post in a 10-post series on tips for effective presentations. For an explanation as to why I’m adding this series to a data-oriented blog, see the intro to the first post in the series. To view other tips in the series, click here.

Tip No. 6: Bring the Energy of a Dinner or Bar Conversation

We’ve all seen it happen time and time again: someone who we personally know to be energetic, outspoken, and lively in 1-on-1 and small group conversations…speaks in the driest of monotones when delivering formally prepared presentations.

Few things kill a presentation’s impact more quickly than a nuclear blast of impassivity from the presenter

It’s understandable why this happens — it’s a chain reaction:

  1. Anxiety about the importance of getting the presentation “right” ups our caution level
  2. The natural way that humans react to caution is to be tentative
  3. In a public speaking situation, tentativeness manifests itself as a low voice with limited modulation, as well as minimal physical movement

Our brains say, “Tread carefully! You’re walking a tightrope and don’t want to do anything risky! One misstep and you will catastrophically plummet into the Presentation Disaster Chasm!”

Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where our natural instincts as to how to be “safe” actually lead to disaster. Think about when you were a kid and first learning to ride a bike. Because the bike was wobbly, your instinct was to go slow…which made the bike more wobbly, because the gyroscopic action of the wheels needed faster rotation to kick in and provide stability. Presenting is similar — if you force yourself to be “the animated you,” you will quickly reap the benefits:

  1. The energy you exhibit on stage will add energy to your audience
  2. The audience will make eye contact and “lean forward” to see what you are so energized about
  3. That energy from the audience will feed back to you, and you will be off and rolling!

I know this sounds a little hokey, but, if you take Tip No. 2 to heart and analyze presenters who are ineffective, consider them through the lens of this tip. How often is the person who is presenting noticeably less energized than you know that person to be?

The fact is, you are going to come across to your audience as being less energetic than you personally feel you are being. That’s because you are likely operating with a slight shot of adrenalin, so you feel more energy as you speak than you are necessarily showing.

There are several non-exclusive ways to apply this tip:

  • Be aware of it — most people don’t realize how passive and monotonal they are being when they are on stage
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! (see Tip No. 5) — as you gain confidence with the flow of your presentation and your content, it becomes infinitely easier to focus on your expressiveness
  • While you’re rehearsing, look for opportunities to use a hand gesture, a facial expression change, a change in the volume or tone of your voice, or other ways to alter your physical and audio presence to add emphasis
  • Video tape yourself rehearsing (I’ve never actually done that…but, as digital video becomes more and more accessible, I fully expect to start!)

This doesn’t mean go crazy and jump around all over the stage, nor does it mean to step wildly outside of your own natural character. But, a little bit of energy goes a long way, and, chances are, you’re not going to overdo it. Bring the energy!

Photo by Eustaquio Santimano



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