As a presenter, I feed off the energy of the audience. I used to think that the audience determined the energy in the room, but after applying some of Jerry Weissman’s principles, I learned the presenter has more control over the room than I previously thought. There was good energy at my Web2.0Expo presentation. At first, I thought it was just a “cooler” audience than usual (which it was) but I could tell that the way I was presenting was having an effect on their energy level as well.
At Jerry Weissman’s presentation at the Churchill Club, he covered many of the concepts in his book–and they stuck with me. Jerry’s book The Power Presenter has many tips on connecting with the audience but what it has–that no other book to date does–are real historic video examples. Jerry licensed tons of videos that you can access online with a code he published in the book. He compares and contrasts many historical examples of presentations, from Billy Graham to Norman Schwarkopf. Watching the videos can transform your presentation style and really makes this a special book of love from Jerry.
While presenting at Web 2.0 Expo, I had several moments where I was keenly aware of my stance and gestures and I modified them immediately. Because of Jerry’s critique of good and bad communications, I became more self aware of my own communication flaws. I have a bad habit of pacing, scanning the room instead of having “real” eye contact, and for some reason I hold my hands behind my back.
In Jerry’s chapter called “Learn to Speak with your body language” he gives three tips combined into an acronym: ERA (Eye Connect, Reach Out, Animation). I used all three and it made a difference:
- Eye contact: Eyes are the most important part of human communication. There are two common statements in Western culture: “I like that person; he looks me straight in the eye!” and “I don’t like that person; he’s shifty-eyed!”. When I was on stage, I used to scan the room from side to side. At Web2.0Expo, I held eye contact for a few seconds with most of the people in the room. Like Jerry recommends, I looked each person in the eye until I felt that they were looking back at me. I could feel a connection, a “click” with that person. It establishes sincerity.
- Reach Out: Because I tend to pace back and forth, I chose instead to move purposefully towards a person at one side of the room as if to have a brief conversation with them. Before pacing back, I would move forward towards the middle of the room as if I was moving in to have a private conversation with someone in the middle. Instead of gesturing side-to-side, I reached out towards various members of the audience as if I was going to shake their hand.
- Animation: There were a few points in my presentation that were pretty dramatic where I told a moving story with a memorable quote. I’ve memorized the quote and added a bit of theatrics to it using my body, eyes, arms and stance to dramatize how I feel. It takes a bit of courage to move outside your comfort zone, but it is powerful and memorable because many people don’t have the guts to be animated.
It really was a great crowd at Web2.0Expo but in reality, my own energy had shifted. Even though the content hasn’t shifted, I do think the entire presentation came across more sincere.