As a presentations coach, I have had lots of practice and have trialed several methods to find what best gets the information across to my audience. I also receive compliments on the quality and efficacy of my presentations. However, I am not immune to critiques from people regarding things they did not like about my presentation. It is important to remember when presenting that it is impossible to appease every single person, every single time. There will always be someone out there who doesn’t agree with your methods, but you can’t let that stop you from achieving your goals. This week I am highlighting the presenter style that is my own personal downfall. To find out which is yours, read my most recent blog posts and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more.
Presentation Style: Conductor
Description: The Conductor is the person whose hands and arms flail about so much during their presentation that you think an orchestra is going to start playing somewhere! This characteristic, also known as “hand-talking,” is a very common trait among individuals of certain nationalities (I’m going to blame my Portuguese heritage here). There are times when this presentation style is appropriate, but most often it is a subconscious tactic to over-compensate for a lack of confidence. During my very early days as a presentations coach I gave a business presentation to a small group of my own mentors and I noticed part-way through that one gentleman was staring at the side wall rather than looking at me. During the feedback afterward he said that he was so distracted by my flailing hands that he effectively wasn’t hearing what I was saying and had to look away to better concentrate. I was shocked, but I have since learned to rein my hands in.
Cons: As I learned from my experience, this particular characteristic can be incredibly distracting for some members of the audience who start focusing on your hands rather than on you, meaning they can miss a lot of your presentation. It can also be a hazard for the presenter, especially when using a microphone. With a microphone on a stand you risk knocking it over, and with a hand-held microphone you could lose your grip and send it across the room. Also, if your hands are moving around too much, the microphone can’t pick up everything you’re saying, which makes it hard for the audience to hear your message.
Pros: Those who identify with being the Conductor are in luck: it is completely necessary with some audiences. When speaking to children, often movement and grand gestures are required to hold their attention, and the more animated you are the better. Especially if your visual aids are 2-dimensional and non-moving (like pictures or PowerPoint slides), you will need to become the animated one to keep the children engaged. Also, when you’re speaking in a large room you may need to use larger gestures so that those seated near the back can see you.
A general rule of thumb to follow is to keep your elbows locked to your sides. This will keep any “hand-talking” gestures to within the frame of your body and prevent you from distracting from yourself, or knocking anything over. Let me know if you are a Conductor: find me on Facebook, Tweet at me or send me an email. Follow my social media to read about the rest of the categories, and if you’d like to work on developing your own presentation skills contact me for a consultation.
And remember: a presentation is simply a large conversation.