Partners in Performance Blog

Presentations that Do NOT Persuade

Last week I was delivering a presentations skills workshop and was observing “Nancy” (name changed) deliver her presentation. Her content and delivery overall were quite good except for one big problem: she sounded more like a recording than a real person. She was using a ‘presentation voice.’ Nancy was not being herself.

With a bit of coaching, she began using her ‘real voice’ and in doing so, revealed a much more authentic voice that was engaging, passionate and clear. Nancy went on to deliver one of the most persuasive presentations of the workshop.

Your voice is a killer persuasion tool. When delivering presentations, the tone of your voice and the vocal variety you use can have more impact than all other presentation skills combined. If people focused as much on their voice as on their power point slides, my bet is they would see a dramatic impact on their ability to move their audience to take action.

When I observe presenters who present using a presentation mode voice it sounds phony. And that makes it hard to trust the presenter and connect at a genuine level. And of course trust and connection are basic ingredients for persuasion.

What makes a presentation even worse is when people fall into the trap of reading from their slides. When this happens, it’s next to impossible to use your voice authentically and to truly connect with your audience.

Seth Godin, bestselling author, entrepreneur and change agent, isn’t about sales per se – just brilliance and insight. Here’s what Seth has to say about voice and persuasion in his post Your Voice Will Give You Away.

“It’s extremely difficult to read a speech (presentation slides) and sound as if you mean it… You must do one of two things if your goal is to persuade:

  1. Learn to read the same way you speak (unlikely)
  2. Or, learn to speak without reading

Learn your message well enough that you can communicate it without reading it. We want your humanity.”

Here is a tip on how to break the pattern of using presentation voice.

When I video tape and coach presenters in my training program UPFRONT Persuasion Through Presentations  I stop the presenter who is using presentation voice. To interrupt this pattern, I ask them a few questions and they immediately start using their genuine conversational tone. I then stop them again and point out that this is the voice, their ‘real’ voice that they need to use. This exercise helps them ‘get it’ at a body level.  What is even more powerful is when they view the video afterwards and see the difference between the two voices.

The next time you have an important presentation to deliver, rehearse it with a friend as follows:

  1. Get them to video tape you on your smart phone or flip camera to establish a baseline.
  2. After about two or three minutes, ask them to stop you and to start asking you a few related questions to engage in a back and forth conversation. i.e. “Why is this presentation important? What did you do to prepare for this presentation? Who is in the audience? How do you think they will react?”
  3. Compare the differences. First what felt different between the presentation tone and the conversational tone? Then view the video and observe the differences.

I have heard countless times how impactful this exercise is during my workshops. It works to stop the phony pattern and to start using a conversational, genuine tone.

Remember – being an effective presenter is not about being slick. It is about being ‘you,’ and being the best ‘you’ that you can be.

What about you? How do you make sure you are using a conversational tone? What tips can you share back with me?

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on January 24, 2012 in Delivery Skills, Persuasion, Presentation Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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