It's spring! Here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, winter is officially over, even if some daily weather patterns have not gotten the memo. Any snow on the way now will fall upon the crocuses and daffodils and wildflowers already sprouting.
Spring, at last!
With this welcome season comes a long history of cleaning, of renewing, of casting off the dust and darkness of long winter. Magazines, newspapers, and websites all offer tips for spring cleaning your closet, your car, your house, your office. But it's also a good time to pay some attention to your presentation skills—sorting what to keep, what to discard, what to repair, what to polish.
While refreshing your presentation skills may take longer than an afternoon or weekend, identifying the areas in need constitutes the necessary first step. Here are some suggestions of where to start; isolate the ones that interfere with your ability to communicate clearly and strongly. Then discard, replace, repair, polish—starting now.
Fillers muddle your delivery, making what's important difficult for an audience to hear and understand. Purge your speech of fillers and you automatically increase the amount and quality of attention your audience pays to your presentation. The same is true of redundant expressions and clichés. Fillers, redundancies, and clichés take space and time away from your messages, those points and ideas that address the purpose of your presentation.
Declutter your messages, too, by limiting their number, keeping them focused, and connecting them securely to your purpose.
Listeners tune out when a speaker presents in a monotonous tone. Practice liveliness by adding variety to your voice and finding places where a note of emotion helps drive home a point.
Examine, too, how you manage facial expressions, body stance and gestures, and eye focus in your delivery. Their fluid use enhances your credibility with an audience and, no coincidence, engages its members. Few audiences connect to a statue with a moving mouth, so give them your entire self, the one that remains vigilant to their needs.
Replace clichés and overused phrases with analogies and figures of speech of your own invention. Originality not only captures attention but supplies the novelty to which listeners' minds actively respond. It allows you to manage meaning and evoke emotion with both care and purpose.
Stories can help you achieve the same cognitive and emotional outcomes as well as provide a structure for your presentation and wind a theme throughout it. Consider refreshing your skills by looking for stories in your own experience, shaping them to illustrate or support messages, and using them as a memorable theme, a thread that gathers presentation elements and reinforces their importance.
But also mull over the role stories may play in designing a grabber and/or a closing. As always, the ending must link to the beginning; a story may establish that link well.
As spring progresses, make progress with your presentation skills. Review, renew, refresh, replace. You may not get finished by summer, though, or even by autumn. Presentations are an ongoing project, a set of skills always under refinement, a series of behaviors to alter and improve.
Spring to it!