Because of Covid-19 many more presentations are held online. This may feel like a welcome change since you don’t have to be in front of the class. However, it can also make things more difficult as you have less of a connection with your audience and it is harder to judge if the audience understands what you are saying. One thing is sure however: In the online world your audience is more easily distracted.
Normally you can engage your audience and emphasise sentences with your posture, gestures, expression and use of space. However, they will now see you on a small image in the corner of the PowerPoint presentation and communication now relies mainly on what you are saying. To retain their attention, you must consciously use the tools at hand in this online setting. Your voice is the most important tool. Besides a to-the-point story with a clear structure, the following four elements will help you convey your message:
1. Intonation is the number 1 factor
You use your intonation to indicate meaning in spoken sentences, thereby reducing the effort required of the listener to give meaning to those sentences. A good intonation indicates expression or animation, thereby captivating the listener. You can use your voice to ‘highlight’ your key message, make a point, create an atmosphere, and convey your message in such a way that your audience will be engrossed in it. Consider which message or feeling you want to convey with your presentation. Select at least 3 points in your presentation where you ‘play’ with your intonation.
You don’t just listen with your ears, but also with your eyes. Now that the audience can’t read your face, you will have to articulate more clearly. You don’t need to exaggerate, but by placing words further forward in your mouth you sound ‘closer’ and you will not have to talk loudly. This is also useful if you naturally have a soft speaking voice.
3. Vary in tempo
It’s not that you shouldn’t talk fast. The art is to change your speaking tempo now and again. This increases the dynamism of your presentation. If you are discussing complex subject matter or make a key point it is beneficial to slow down. If you then follow this with an example or easy to digest information, you can increase your tempo again.
4. Include enough and well-timed pauses
Your audience needs time to process information. So, if you continue talking without pausing, you will not be able to convey your message to your audience. Therefore, pause for about 3 seconds after stating your key message, an important argument or a concluding statement. Plan these pauses ahead of time and practice them. If you master this your words will have more weight and you will appear more self-assured.
Putting it into practice
Great tips, but how can you learn this? Watch and learn from other good speakers. TED talks, press conferences, podcasts, television presenters are a source of inspiration. Analyse fragments using the elements above. What is the speaker doing? How does this affect you as a listener? And what fits your style? Follow this up with practice. Try out new things and record yourself! You may feel that you are often exaggerating, but if you listen to your recording you may come to the conclusion that you have not ‘exaggerated’ enough. The more you practice, the more natural this will feel. And when you reach that point, you will not only control the content of your message, but also your audience.
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