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Once you develop a strong message and powerful visuals, you’re ready to deliver your performance. Not a speech, but a performance!
If possible, present in a brighter room; when you do, use dark text on a light background. Make sure your laptop resolution matches the projector’s native resolution. Otherwise the projector will “scale” it and the image will look distorted. Always use a presentation remote control.
To present ideas simply, rapidly, and clearly on a napkin, you need to become familiar with drawing basic shapes, lines, and sketches. The process of distilling complicated concepts into simple lines and shapes helps you clarify ideas in your own mind. Your simple diagrams will also make it easy for others to understand and remember the information.
Some postures and gestures enhance the power of your presentation and others detract from it. The recommendations in this section will help you to express yourself in a highly engaging and effective manner. (You can see examples of good and poor gestures and body language in the Gestures Gallery.)
When you speak about the height of something, gesture its height; if you talk about how heavy something is, gesture a heavy weight with your hands. If you talk about a sequence of events, use your hands to show the beginning, middle, and end as if there were a horizontal time axis in front of you. You can illustrate the passing of time or location by moving from one place to another across the room.
Emphatic gestures occur more naturally when you have strong convictions or emotions about your content. People who are very upset or very excited never wonder how to use gestures; they happen naturally. Be careful not to overuse emphatic gestures. If you keep clenching your fists or holding your chest, you end up looking like you have a strange mannerism. Vary your gestures according to the emotion you feel and with each sentence shared with the participants.
The University of Manchester “Gesture Center” in England carried out a study in which volunteers listened to stories with and without accompanying hand gestures. When they were tested ten minutes later, those who listened to stories with hand gestures had up to a third higher recall rate.
Your passion comes through your words, intonation, gestures, and facial expressions. If you are not naturally expressive and animated, you need to practice. Practice expressing excitement. Practice being enthusiastic. Videotape yourself presenting a subject with passion and enjoy the results.
Research shows that when you stand on the right side (your right) of the stage or room, your content has a stronger effect on the right brain of the participants—the emotional, creative side. If you stand on the left side, then your content will have a stronger effect on the left side of their brain—the logical, analytical side. Stand on the left when you want to appeal to their reasoning, and on the right when you want to appeal to their emotions.
When you begin to gesture and bring your hands up from this position, the contrast makes the gesture much more apparent and meaningful. When you have finished a gesture, return your hands to the neutral position. Keeping your hands by your sides can feel awkward and vulnerable at first; keep practicing until it feels comfortable. When you have mastered the neutral position, you augment all other gestures, and your audience perceives you as confident and self-assured.
Avoid using laser pointers if you can. These can be distracting and bring more attention to the device and your shaky control than to what you highlight. People in the back of the room will often find it hard to see the red dot. If you are near the screen, it is much easier and more effective to point with your hand. As well as giving you greater control, it allows you to remain close to the center of attention.
Think of the eyes—they can be wide open in joy, surprise, or fear; half-closed in hate or scrutiny; raised in prayer; dropped in humility; or looking sideways in jealousy or envy. Lips can be partly open in wonder or surprise; wide open in horror; turned upward in pleasure; turned downward in sorrow; and compressed in anger or determination.
Smiling can affect your mood. Studies show that if you smile, even if you don’t feel like smiling, your mood will be altered in the positive direction. The more you smile, the more you will generate that feeling within you.
When participants answer your questions, they will feel more accepted and confident about what they are saying if you nod. Head nodding facilitates agreement and cooperation. Try it in your next presentation.
Don’t focus on your slides, your laptop, the whiteboard, or look down at your notes. Inanimate objects do not make any purchasing decisions. People do, and your eyes can persuade them to action.