Business Development Series Posted by David McDermott

We have been working effectively on presentation and pitching skills for almost 30 years now and have found that most providers focus on delivery when running their presentation skills training programmes. This is often done at the expense of providing critical advice on persuasive strategies, how to use USP’s, position yourself against competitors and package content effectively. Even although most training providers focus almost entirely on delivery, many give poor advice at best and many give advice that is wrong and unhelpful. To back up this assertion we would like to share three stories over the next three weeks and give tips on best practice delivery

Recently, I was sitting in a restaurant in London waiting for my niece to arrive. She is on a graduate programme with a law firm. She walked into the restaurant with purpose and headed straight toward me. Avoiding the usual pleasantries, she said, “David, you know all about presentations, don’t you?” “Yes?” I replied, a bit surprised at her direct approach. She waved her hands around in the air and said, “So what do I do with these then?” My niece is not alone here; we find this is the most frequently asked question when it comes to delivery.

I told her that she was a naturally expressive type and should therefore be natural, keeping her hands visible and using them to make gestures to reinforce her spoken word. “Thank you”, she replied. “I was told on a training course today that I should keep them by my side, otherwise they will become a distraction. In the end I couldn’t speak.”

An extensive study of the blind by Dr Jana Iverson of Indiana University proved that the gestures we use when we speak are not random waving of the hands but are systematically related to what a speaker is saying and thinking.

A palms up (‘placator’) gesture is a universal gesture for openness. On occasion, a palms down (‘leveller’) gesture can be used for emphasis. It gives the message this is a fact or this is not open to question. You can also use them to label your points, firstly, secondly, etc…

So do what you do naturally when in conversation. Use visible gestures to reinforce your spoken word.

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