Unit 7: Delivering Your Presentation
You know your audience, have researched your topic, outlined your presentation, and created your presentation aid. The next step is to give your presentation. In this unit, we explore how to incorporate the fundamentals of an oral presentation: tone, volume, rate, voice modulation, body language, eye contact, and other forms of nonverbal communication.
We begin this unit by watching some presenters with exceptional speaking skills to study their delivery style. Then we explore how you can use vocal and nonverbal communication techniques to improve a presentation.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- explain the impact your voice and body language have on your audience.
7.1: Examples of Great Presenters
To present effectively, you need to find your unique voice and style. We begin this segment by watching examples of speeches by three former U.S. presidents. Each politician is highly skilled in the craft of speaking. They have spent years honing their speaking skills with techniques related to their voice, body language, and eye contact. As you watch, try to identify what makes each one unique.
Watch President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address to see a traditional style of speech that is popular in law school.
Listen to this podcast to hear how President Barack Obama uses pauses to great effect with an engaging, rolling cadence. He uses words that relate to the feelings of his audience to captivate and inspire.
President Ronald Reagan often incorporated jokes and personal stories into his speeches, a style that led listeners to characterize him as "the great communicator".
7.2: Nonverbal Presentation Skills
While writers use headings, fonts, and punctuation to draw attention, delineate relationships, and express importance, presenters use nonverbal intonation to highlight essential information.
Nonverbal communication encompasses everything from paralinguistics – how we use our voice (tone, rate, pitch, accent) and bodies (facial expression, eye contact, gestures, posture, stance, clothes, and jewelry) to communicate information. For example, we can speak softly or loudly, use hand gestures, or change the tone or intonation of our voice to express or convey emotion and engage our audience.
Read this section, which describes how we communicate nonverbally and the role of nonverbal communication.
7.3: Using Your Voice
A dynamic presenter can use their voice to salvage a substandard presentation, while a poor speaker can destroy a well-written presentation one. The four most essential tools for enhancing your delivery are dynamics, pacing, tone, and fluency.
Watch the second half of this talk that you saw earlier in the course to hear examples of each tool in your "vocal toolbox".
Watch this video to hear how presenters use their voices to support their message.
Watch this video, which discusses how to use your voice and offers an opportunity to practice.
Watch this short video, where a poet and teacher transitions from extemporaneous speaking to a memorized spoken-word performance. Notice how his vocal dynamics change as he interprets his poem for his audience.
7.4: Voice Dynamics
Dynamics refers to the volume of your voice. For example, a speaker might speak more loudly to express surprise or excitement or to add emphasis. They might soften their voice to engage their audience after they have described an emotionally-intense concept or idea. How did the speaker use voice dynamics in the video we just watched?
Read this article, which explains how to use voice dynamics to enhance your message.
In addition to discussing rate, volume and pitch, this reading introduces the concepts of fluency and conversational tone.
Watch this video to see a demonstration of how you can use your voice for great effect.
Pacing refers to the speed at which you present your ideas. For example, you might talk faster to build tension or cover material your audience is already familiar with. You might speak more slowly to explain a complex concept or describe an emotional issue. How have the speakers you've watched adjusted their pacing to emphasize certain material? Were those techniques successful?
Read this brief article that presents techniques for adjusting your pace.
7.6: Conversational Tone
When you present to an audience, your voice should sound comfortable and engaging, as if you were explaining something to a friend and having a conversation with each individual. Avoid the temptation to read from a script, outline, or notes. Reading to your audience makes you seem distant, unprepared, and boring. Audience members who traveled to attend your live presentation will probably wish they had stayed home to read the transcript.
While the speakers we've listened to probably delivered their remarks from a written manuscript, they still speak in conversational styles. Think about presentations you have heard where the presenter read the words without investing meaning into them.
As you prepare, record yourself and listen as you present from your written manuscript. Do you incorporate a conversational tone, or do you sound as if you are reading your presentation? Read this brief article that offers techniques for adjusting your pace.
Watch this video, which offers examples of what we mean by conversational tone.
Fluency refers to the natural flow of your words and ideas. Presenters who have effective fluency pause in the appropriate places, after commas and periods, and for an appropriate length of time. Ineffective fluency describes taking breaks in the middle of sentences or between ideas, making it difficult for the audience to fully understand your central message.
Pauses are one of the most powerful tools presenters have at their disposal. For example, you can pause when you tell an emotional story or before the end of the narrative to hold the audience in suspense. You can pause after you make a dramatic statement, so the audience has time to properly grasp your tale's significance. You should certainly pause while you explain complex concepts to let your audience take notes or organize their thoughts before you move onto a new idea.
Watch this video which demonstrates how to pause during your presentation to help communicate your message to your audience.
Watch this video to see some more pauses in action. How do pauses impact what you learn from the presentation?
7.8: Using Your Body
The way we sit, stand, tilt our heads, and rest our hands can communicate a lot to our audience. Our body language speaks to our credibility, confidence, passion for the topic, and relationship with each audience member. Whether you are presenting in a face-to-face or online, think about what your audience can and cannot see. Use nonverbal communication strategies like hand gestures, facial expressions, and other types of body language to your advantage.
Watch this video for examples of what it means to use your body language during a presentation.
Watch this video to learn how to match your facial expression with the content of your topic.
Our hands are powerful tools we can use to relay messages, enhance our words, or demonstrate something complicated to explain without a visual aid. For example, ask someone to describe a spiral staircase without using a hand gesture.
Watch this video, which demonstrates how to use your hands when you present and how your body language can convey meaning to your audience.
Watch this video to see some common mistakes people make when presenting.
7.10 Eye Contact
Expectations for eye contact often vary by culture. For western audiences, good eye contact is essential to building trust and projecting confidence.
This video explains why it is important to maintain eye contact to show your audience you are conversing with them.