For the Novice: Projecting Power On the Podium
Stand and look good –
even if you don’t feel good.
By George Torok
You speak before a group. You present your message. You might be selling your product or service. How do you present yourself with power?
Avoid the Temptations
Don’t be fooled by the name – there is no implied power in PowerPoint. Have you noticed how many use PowerPoint who do not have power? That should be your first clue. If everyone is doing something, it is too common to be powerful.
PowerPoint is easy-to-use software. It seduces you into believing that your presentation is all about nice graphics. That’s your second mistake. If it focuses on ease of use, it’s not targeting what the presentation needs to be powerful.
The third deception is that bad presenters can hide behind their flashy PowerPoint presentations. A bad golfer doesn’t get better by using expensive clubs or wearing a Nike cap. Hone the fundamental skills. Relying on colorful slides will not make your presentation powerful.
Power Comes From Within You
The only power that counts in your presentation – and everything you do – is the power that comes from within you. That is real and recognizable power.
This is real power because no one can take it away from you. They can admire it and covet it but they cannot take it away from you. That is what makes you powerful.
How Do You Convey Power to Your Audience?
The first way you convey power is in the confidence you project. Stand and look good – even if you don’t feel good. Projecting power is based more on how you look and sound than how you feel. Most people look more confident than they feel. This is surprising to most presenters – and it is a welcome relief. No one else knows; only you can hear your inner voice berating you.
So even when you don’t feel so good, always try to look good. It works in your favor.
Your physical appearance is the first and strongest way to project power. Smile. By smiling, you seem relaxed and competent. Nothing conveys trust and confidence more than a smile.
Another physical projection of power is the way you stand. Stand away from the lectern so the audience can see you. When you appear more open, you appear more believable.
Also, be sure to stand tall and strong. Shoulders back and chest out, looking as tall and big as you can. We put more faith in someone who appears to be big: bigger and stronger seems more confident.
Stand with your hands and arms open most of the time. Crossed arms appear guarded, as if you are hiding something. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
Your voice is the next component to power and credibility. Power comes from the appearance of confidence. You sound more powerful when you sound more confident. You sound more confident when you speak slower and deeper – and say less. Speaking slower shows that you are willing to let listeners digest what you say, that you are not afraid of interruptions. Speaking slower also lowers the tone of your voice – which makes you sound more believable. Who sounds more powerful – the slow pounding march of the elephant or the skittering of the mouse?
Pause more. That displays confidence and allows your listeners to think about what you say. It is never about what you tell them. It is about what they convince themselves. And they convince themselves while you are not talking. You do not convince with your words. They need the silences to think.
Hum the first four notes to Beethoven’s Fifth symphony. Feel the power in those simple, clear four notes. Compare that to the plodding monotone of rap music. Have you noticed that the only power in most popular music is from the slow deep thud of the base? In speaking you can harness the full power of musicality to suit your needs. Use your voice to build commanding highs and lows that will emphasize your points and dramatize your emotions for he audience’s ear.
Use Words of Power
Pick words that convey power. Short, simple, clear words display more power than longer words. Love, hate, grow, kill, stop, go, are more powerful than infatuation, ill feelings, cultivation, exterminate, discontinue, departure.
Simple phrases and short sentences have more power than long, vague convoluted meanderings. What’s more powerful, “Our mission is to be the supplier of choice to our customers, show respect for our employees, work fairly with our suppliers, be recognized as a leader in the marketplace and generate a consistently above average return on investment to our shareholders.” Or, “We’re here to win.”
Verbs are more powerful than nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Action is power. Use talk instead of communication. Use say instead of verbalization. Use sell instead of solicitation. Those words ending in “–tion” are poison. They melt away the power from your message.
You Are the Power
You can be more powerful when you speak – if you focus on what you say and how you look and sound. Power is a feeling. If your audience believes you to be powerful by how you make them feel, you will be powerful.
I am not suggesting that you intimidate. The power of fear is not the way to inspire teams – unless you want to inspire them to destroy you.
Don’t hide behind PowerPoint slides hoping they will grant you power. Only your personal power will move your audience to buy into your message. Tap into that personal power to make you believable and compelling.
George Torok, CTM, delivers powerful presentations, with and without PowerPoint. He is a member of Skyway Toastmasters in Burlington, Ontario Canada.