Posted on LinkedIn 2015
As a presentation coach, I experience many presentations, some verbal, some visual and most very visceral. I am often impressed by the creativity of some presenters, and I am also sometimes shocked as to the lackluster of some professionals when presenting their ideas and concepts.
I recently had the opportunity to experience several technical presentations. It’s a different ballgame when presenting technology, as opposed to an educational, motivational, inspirational or transformational presentation. However, with any presentation, the desired outcome remains the same, get your message across. The difference is with most non technical presentations, the speaker is more concerned with having the audience engage and embrace the content, not just deliver the information. It amazes me, with technology being at the forefront of our lives, in just about everything we do, the initial exposure or presentation of new technology comes across stoic, content heavy, and connect less.
Why is that? Is it because most technical presentations are delivered by engineers or developers? Is it because the content is so complex, emotion doesn’t play into the delivery? Could it be the presenter just wants to deliver their content and get through the presentation? I believe all to be true.
So what did I see that was so bad? I don’t believe there’s an actual bad way to deliver a presentation. However some presentations fall short of being brilliant. One presenter came onstage with what appeared to be a scowl. The audience could immediately sense he was either angry or confused. Perhaps he was concentrating so hard on trying to remember his script, his focus didn’t let his default face shine through. Add to the heavy content that was being delivered, this presenter’s emotional state was written all over his face. No matter how you feel about content versus delivery, a presenter’s facial emotional presence can enhance or destroy a talk.
What do you look like when you stand in front of an audience and present a talk? Have you taken a good honest look at yourself to see what you are facially projecting? As a kid I used to sit in front of the mirror for what seemed like hours and make faces at myself. I learned what my face looks like when stretching or contracting the 33 muscles in my face. By no means did that make me an expert in facial emotional intelligence, but I created facial muscle memory that assisted my understanding of what I am revealing with my face. Or so I thought. When I was practicing my talk for the World Championship Semifinals, my good friend Lee, pointed out my face was not indicating what I was sharing. I was delivering a section of my talk where I described my mother’s passing. I tightened my lips as if to create tension. Lee jumped up and said “why are you smiling. You’re mom just died”? We argued that I was not smiling, but rather, portraying sadness. But when I looked in the mirror, my smirk did look like a smile. I have one of those happy faces, so I have to conscientiously emphasize negative emotion. As a speaker I video record all my talks, and as a coach I record all my clients when speaking. It allows me to point out to them some of the nuances in their facial expressions that can be altered for a more improved reception from the audience.
What’s your default facial expression? When you are making a point, that has an emotional conveyance, does your face tell the story of the emotion accurately? Enclosed is a chart of feelings. Can you manipulate your face to all the emotions listed here? Look in the mirror and see if you can match some of the emotions with your face. I know it may seem silly, but the last thing you need as a presenter is to deliver a very important point and the audience just not connect because your words and your face don’t match. If you’re happy…tell your face. If you’re serious or any other emotion…tell your face.
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