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Presentation Skills

Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Understanding your body language and other physical queues is very important when you are presenting material in front of an audience. Your non-verbal communication skills are just as important as your verbal skills. Combined they make up the complete communication package that you use when you are presenting your material.

Body Language

Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication. Nonverbal communication cues you in to what is on another person’s mind, even
more than voice or words can do.

One study at UCLA found that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non- verbal signals through body language all the time.

Your words represent only 7% of the message that is received. Your body language represents 55%. But your body language must match the words used. If a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language governs.


Gestures are an important tool for a presenter. The challenge is make gestures support the speaking, reinforcing ideas. Below are several basic rules for the use of gestures:

•   Make most gestures above the waist. (Those below the waist suggest failure, defeat, and despair.)

•   Hold your forearms parallel to the waist, with your elbows about 3 inches from the side.

•   Make your hands part of your forearm, opening them, with your fingers slightly curved. (Limp hands may indicate a lack of leadership.)

•   Use both hands to convey power.

Gestures of direction, size, shape, description, feeling, and intensity are all effective when speaking.
The Signals You Send to Others

Signals are movements used to communicate needs, desires, and feelings to others. They are a form of expressive communication. More than 75% of the signals you send to others are non-verbal.
People who are excellent communicators are sensitive to the power of the emotions and thoughts communicated non-verbally through signals.

Types of Non-Verbal Signals: Other than gestures already discussed, signals include:

•   Eye contact

•   Posture

•   Body movements.

They all convey important information that isn't put into words. By paying closer attention to other people's nonverbal behaviors, you will improve your own ability to communicate nonverbally.

Intervals of four to five seconds of eye contact are recommended.

It is also important to use a tone of voice to reinforce the words in your presentation. For example, using an animated tone of voice emphasizes your enthusiasm for a participant’s contribution in a debrief session.

As a presenter, your words should match your non-verbal behaviors. If they do not, people will tend to pay less attention to what you said, and focus instead on your nonverbal signals.
It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Tone of Voice: We are all born with a particular tone of voice. While most people are not gifted with a radio announcer’s voice, we can learn to improve our tone of voice. The idea is have your voice sound upbeat, warm, under control, and clear. Here are some tips to help you begin the process.

•  Make sure you are breathing from the diaphragm.

•  Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and avoid caffeine due to its diuretic effects

•  Stand up tall; posture affects breathing, which affects tone.

•  Smile; it warms up the tone of your voice.

•  If your voice is particularly high or low, exercise the range of your voice by doing a sliding scale. You can also expand the range of your voice by singing.

Record your voice and analyze the playback.

Practice speaking in a slightly lower octave. Deeper voices have more credibility than higher pitched voices. It will take getting used to pitching your voice down an octave, but it will be worth the effort.

Get feedback from a colleague or family member about the tone of your voice.

Performing a Needs Analysis 

A needs analysis measures what skills employees have -- and what they need. It indicates how to deliver the right training at the right time. 

1. What is the audience with the problem or need for change? 

2. What tasks and does an expert perform to complete a work process? 

3. What gaps exist between experts, average, and poor performers of a work process? 

4. How do we translate the needs into objectives to promote a strong learning outcome

Listening and Hearing: They Aren't the Same Thing 

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning. 
This is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words. Listening skills, however, can be learned and refined. 

Preparing Mentally 

Visualization is the formation of mental visual images. It is an excellent way to prepare your mind before a presentation. There are several types of visualization: 

•  Receptive visualization: Relax, clear your mind, sketch a vague scene, ask a question, and wait for a response. You might imagine you are on the beach, hearing and smelling the sea. You might ask, "Why can’t I relax?”, and the answer may flow into your 
•  Programmed Visualization: Create an image, giving it sight, taste, sound, and smell. Imagine a goal you want to reach, or a healing you wish to accelerate. Jane used visualization when she took up running, feeling the push of running the hills, the sweat, and the press to the finish line. 
•  Guided Visualization: Visualize again a scene in detail, but this time leave out important elements. Wait for your subconscious to supply missing pieces to your puzzle. Your scene could be something pleasant from the past. 

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