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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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We all want to communicate with power and ease, but many people feel challenged when faced with a crucial business meeting. The truth is, anyone can command an audience or take charge at a meeting. The key to charisma is relaxation.

The following are some tips to maximize your presentation skills in professional situations.

First, the hardware. In my experience, your audience generally remembers 7 percent of what you say. This means that the other 93 percent of your message is non-verbal your look, posture, gestures, tone, pitch and speech habits.

Excellent grooming shows that you respect the people you’re dealing with, and that you respect yourself. They will unconsciously assume that your work product is as well groomed and polished as your appearance.

Dress appropriately, and in a way that’s comfortable for you. Many people develop a signature look, such as a man’s suspenders or a trademark jacket for a woman, that gives them a sense of heightened individuality. Don’t draw attention from what you’re saying by wearing a neon red tie or swinging jewelry that will hypnotize your listeners. Wear nothing that draws attention away from your face. Wear your clothes, don’t let them wear you.

For improving posture, nothing works like a video camera. Tape yourself; watch for slumped posture or nervous tics like tapping feet, patting hair, or touching jewelry. Ask a friend to observe you. Are you sitting up, or glued to the back of your chair? If your body is saying, “I don’t really want to be here,” your message will be lost. Lean slightly forward in your chair, toward your audience.

If you talk with your hands, fine, just keep them down to chest level, and don’t conduct the Ninth Symphony. While some people cross their arms for comfort, it’s probably not a good idea to cross them in a small business meeting, because it unconsciously conveys a closed mind. Also, in certain cases men crossing their legs can convey a careless arrogance. Be aware. Monitor your posture.

If you’d like to hear the real potential of your voice, try this exercise: stick your tongue comfortably out of your mouth, let it hang. Now read out loud, for 5 minutes, without stopping. Enunciate the words with utmost precision, but never move your tongue. After 5 minutes, reread the same passage.

If you have done the exercise correctly, you will have accurate voice placement, extraordinary consonants, and you’ll be speaking in a powerful, resonant voice. It won’t last, unless you do it every day, but you’ll have heard your potential.

Next comes the software. To eliminate self-consciousness, focus on your message. Your message is powerful: It will serve your clients, transform their lives, make them rich. Your goal is to put your clients at ease, not yourself. You are the host of this meeting, even if it’s taking place on their yacht. As host, you’re in control of the communication, which is where you want to be.

Remember that nothing hooks people’s attention like listening to them. Train yourself to listen; few of us do it well. Paraphrase what you’ve heard to make sure you’ve understood. Your clients will feel taken care of in a uniquely special way. Learn the one-minute message. Can you deliver the three most important points of your message in one minute? That’s all you’d have on TV. Practice honing your delivery style until you have a riveting one-minute message and use it in the first five minutes of your meeting.

A common problem you may encounter is that in the effort to be taken seriously, you overreach and look nervous and needy, or worse, boring. You may dress like a monk, move like a butler, and never crack a joke. You hide behind your information, a frequent mistake.

Unfortunately, your audience will assume you are inexperienced and anxious, and that makes them nervous. Remember the key to charisma is relaxation, and that humor is one of the most powerful communication tools available. A sense of humor about yourself conveys deep confidence in who you are a very powerful message. Good humor dissolves perfectionism, which is the enemy of great communication. Remember that good humor is neutral humor making gentle fun of situations, not people, and inviting others to share in the joke.

The following exercise is a proven technique for showing you at your best. Pretend to tell your story to a group of children, aged 6 to 12. Talk in their language. This is an extremely important exercise that will show you your potential for warm, funny, interesting, powerful communication. No one wants to bore a child, so when we talk to kids, we tend to listen and react on a continual basis, to see how they’re taking it.

This ability to scan your audience and make minute adjustments in your presentation is the hallmark of a great communicator. Furthermore, when we talk to children, our voices automatically open up to a much wider range, we use more expressive body language and facial expression. Passion and energy skyrocket.

If you still have nervous jitters when approaching potential clients, mentally reposition. Reframe the situation to where you see yourself as a resource for your clients. You are not there to “sell,” you are there to be an important source for them of information, techniques, referrals, advice and solutions. Those who reframe, control the game.

Ann Convery is a media trainer for Anthony Mora Communications, a West Los Angeles public relations company specializing in media placement, image development and media training.

Entrepreneur’s Notebook is a regular column distributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact Dan Rabinovitch at (213) 743-2344 with feedback and topic suggestions.

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