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Public Speaking – How to Maximise Your Visual Impact
By visual impact, we mean the effect of body language, facial expressions, working with the support of the speaker, moving around the presentation area – any physical actions that the audience will observe while presenting to them. Does all this affect the perception and interpretation of meaning? Yes, they do, and probably more than we’ll ever realize.
How much influence do they have? Various results obtained by psychologists and communication experts agree that visual stimuli can actively influence up to 50% of the interpretation of a presented message. Why is visual stimulation so powerful? It has to do with how our brain processes information. Every piece of information we receive is stored. Most of them we don’t remember or use consciously, but we use them unconsciously. As we acquire new information, we refer back to that “old” information to find meaning. An interesting discovery was that the mind has a subconscious channel that is much more efficient than the conscious channel in this referential process and is particularly clever at interpreting sensory stimuli and triggering emotional responses.
What all this means is that regardless of what message we think we are presenting to the viewer, it is our visual cues, both intentional and unintentional, that the viewer will consciously and unconsciously observe and interpret.
First of all, how to present yourself visually
The audience’s focus should ultimately be on the message, but before that, they need to be comfortable with the messenger…you! Basically you want them to trust you and like you. So the signals you want to send are credibility, competence, trust and approachability. These good habits will send these signals:
o Relax your whole body. Imagine that you are gently hanging from your shoulders and head. Feel the space between your legs. Gently shift your weight left and right, between your heels and toes.
o Feel high. Stand tall and straight with shoulders back and chin gently lifted.
o Center yourself and turn from the hips 45 degrees to the left and right.
o Keep your hands away from your mouth.
o Look at each part of the audience separately when giving your presentation. Nod or smile as you greet them.
o Maintain eye contact and speak with face groups. At some point in your presentation, create the impression that you are speaking to each group separately.
o Don’t stare blankly at the walls and ceiling, it shows that you are at a loss for words or worried.
o Don’t drive too fast without a specific purpose. Some action will engage the audience, but too much is distracting and will confuse the interpretation of your message.
o When using notes on the podium, keep them blank. Open current and next pages for smooth transition. Avoid rustling paper into the microphone.
o Don’t wave notes, it’s distracting. Keep your hands free.
o Do not repeatedly look at the speaker support screen. It draws attention away from you and offers ambiguity, prompting the audience to read for themselves.
o Autocue is great as a suggestion for a learned script. Never read a script you don’t know. Place monitors left, right and center for natural audience eye contact.
o Powerpoint is great for confirming what you are saying now with Keywords. Never let him cue you or let the audience sing before you. There are clear transitional phrases.
Once you practice these techniques and form them into good habits, you’ll find yourself presenting with the look and aura of a seasoned presenter. With this practice, you will also become fully aware of how you communicate visually.
Then how to present your message visually
Once you’re aware and in control, you can begin to visually maximize impact and add emphasis and meaning to your message. Public speaking is performance art at its best! Public speakers at the top of their craft use stagecraft to convey the meaning and emotion of their message.
o Facial expressions can show a range of emotions: Happy, Serious, Curious, Ironic, Shocked, and Confused. Practice them in the mirror and create your favorites. Treat them with confidence so they get noticed.
o Directed gazes show how you are thinking: Look up and to the right when reasoning. Look up and left while remembering. Look down and away when discussing.
o Hand gestures confirm your actions and intentions: Counting. Hammer points. Open arms say acceptance or openness. Clasped hands say unity or bonding.
o Movement around the stage shows how you communicate: The stage or chair in the center says listen to me. Step to the side or forward while asking them to think about something. Go right, “this is between you and me,” he says. Take the far side while taking a look at the dispute. Go to the other side while looking the other way.
Subliminal visual emphasis
o Using visual stimulation and subliminal communication, we can use the above techniques to reinforce a desired mood or audience perception. You can then trigger that mood by repeating the action at a time of your choosing.
o EG: You chose part of the stage to discuss the benefits of a clean slate approach to difficult issues. You then return to that area when you invite the audience to ask questions without prompting from you, but you ask them to apply the same clean slate.
o “Stage Props” like a high stool or even a flip chart can be great anchor tools as light changes to the set.
In addition, stage props can act as visual metaphors. Referee’s red card indicating that he has been sent off. A very large mobile phone from the 1980s showing the degree of progress. Props that are visible but not explained are great at creating interest. They are also memorable images and therefore great for embedding messages.
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