Business Development Series Posted by David McDermott

In the first of three articles on effective delivery we addressed the issue of what to do with your hands. We also stated that despite the fact that most training providers focus on delivery when training and advising on presentation skills, many give bad advice. Here is the second of our stories.

I recently went back to my hometown in Scotland and was enjoying a night out with some old friends. One of them, Joe, told me he’d recently attended a presentation skills course with his company. I was naturally curious and asked him what he learned. “The most important thing that I learned was…”

After about six or seven seconds or so he completed his sentence, “To PAUSE”. We all laughed, as his performance was rather impressive, especially as it is often very difficult to get a word in when Joe is around!

When I asked him what else he learned I was astonished to hear that this was pretty much all he took away from the two days training. He went on at great length about the importance of pausing before turning a page (Joe works in financial services on some complex products and does all his presentations sitting down), pausing after turning the page, the pause to think and the pause to absorb etc. When I asked him how all this felt he said, “Robotic, I just couldn’t be myself”.

While it is important to pause and keep eye contact with your audience while you do, I question the merit in a presenter having to think too much about the various pauses at the expense of their content.

Something you should know about Joe is that he is a frontman for a local band and he loves an audience. His delivery is absolutely flawless, and he is one of the most confident and yet modest people I know. His objective for attending the course was to learn how to explain complex products to less sophisticated audiences, and no number of pauses will achieve this.

He really needed to learn how to be selective about the amount of technical data he presented and how to bring this content alive with stories and use analogies for complexity. Bottom line for me is that anything that comes over as unnatural or robotic is not a good thing.

I always advise my clients to pause and maintain eye contact when they have made an important point or asked a rhetorical question. In addition, it is also important to learn how to modulate your voice, so it is easy to listen to and not monotonous. Finally, avoid any upper inflection at the end of the sentence unless you are asking a question. Audiences find this irritating and it can come across as lacking confidence.

So, vary the pace, vary the pitch and add an occasional pause or two.

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