By Beverly Mahone
I was flipping through the TV channels recently and came across a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author reading excerpts from her best-selling book on C-Span. The stories she told were extremely interesting and compelling but I couldn’t help but cringe over the sound of her voice. No doubt, she was an expert on the subject she was discussing but in my expert opinion as a professional speaker/coach, she lacked presentation skills. I continued to listen to her while critiquing her communication skills in my mind.
Have you ever been to a conference or meeting where the expert speaking either made you yawn (more than once) or used words you would have to use a dictionary to look up? I’ve seen and heard it time and time again. There are lots of speakers who are very knowledgeable and present interesting information but sometimes their presentation skills are less than average.
Truth be told, many experts in their fields don’t really have what it takes to command an audience. They know their subject very well but, often times, don’t know how to communicate effectively. According to Kathy Caprino of Ella Communications, “Experts simply fail to engage us on an emotional, heartfelt level – they don’t connect in a personal way, or give the sense that they truly care a whit about the audience and its ability to productively use the vast information they know and share. In the end, their lack of a human connection makes their presentations feel overwhelming and unsettling – they push us away with all data, facts and statistics, and no heart and soul.”
And if you can’t hold a live audience, chances are you would really bomb out during a radio, TV or podcast interview.
You might be the queen or king of the social media circles or written a best-selling book but the written word is dramatically different than the spoken word.
Presentation Skills You Can Develop
Here are some speaker tips for conducting a good news media interview or to speak to a live audience:
- Speak with passion about your subject. Don’t overhype – but let the audience know how much you truly enjoy what you do.
- Smile — even if you’re doing a radio interview, the listener can hear it in your voice.
- Let your personality shine through. This falls in line with the passion, but also allows your audience to see various sides of you depending on the topic you’re discussing. No one likes serious all the time—especially if your topic is light-hearted in nature.
- Be aware of your body language. Frowning is a turn-off – unless you are doing it in the context of making a point about something negative. Gesturing naturally is great but looking like you don’t know what to do with your hands will make you look nervous and unprofessional.
- Don’t use $10 words. No one is going to be impressed with all the big words you know. But if you do use them, make sure you can explain them in layman’s terms.
- Gesture even if you’re doing radio or a podcast. People who sit stiff as a board will sound more robotic than human.
- Learn how to pace yourself. Speaking too fast or too slowly will have your audience tuning out. You might want to practice with a friend to see what they think about your pacing.
- Remember, your voice creates an impression. And just like appearances, it could be a lasting one in your favor or cut down on the number of requests for you as a presenter.
- Practice, practice, practice — Join a public speaking group in your area or hire a public speaking coach to help you.
By following these tips, you can be a subject-matter expert and an expert public speaker as well. And that’s a powerful combination.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Beverly Mahone is a veteran journalist, author, coach, and professional speaker. After more than 30 years in radio and TV news, Beverly created BAM Enterprises. In addition to working with employers to help them understand how to recruit and train millennials, she also provides professional speaker training. Beverly has appeared on numerous radio and TV talk programs including MSNBC. She has been featured in the New York Times and has written five books including the Amazon Best Sellers How to Get on the News Without Committing Murder and The Baby Boomer/Millennial Divide: Making it Work at WORK. She has written for or been covered by the Huffington Post, Forbes, and Newsweek magazine.
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