Your Progress


Good communication is a good tool when it comes to promoting inclusion and ensuring your message is heard. Remember communication theories and what they say about the sender, barriers, encoding and the receiver. You have to ensure your message is heard by paying attention to some of the factors highlighted below.

Personal appearance and grooming

Professional salespeople talk about the €˜vital 30 seconds€™. This is the amount of time you have to make a favourable first impression on your client or audience. In that first glance at you, your client assesses your dress, grooming and your appearance, including the body language signals you are sending out. Anything that looks out of place will be noticed by your audience and can be very distracting. You have to be as professionally presented as your talk. Let€™s look at some ways that you can make the most of those first 30 seconds.

When you meet someone for the first time, what are you aware of? Some of the important factors that people find most striking in those first few seconds and which contribute to positive appearance and grooming are:

-organisation of trips or work experience

-eye contact
-facial expression
-general grooming

Let€™s examine the four factors listed, beginning with eye contact.

Eye contact
More is assumed from eye contact than any other body language. Looking a person €˜straight in the eye€™ is generally taken to mean that the person is honest and trustworthy, while looking away when you are introduced to someone can be taken as either indifference or hostility. Here are some hints for effective use of eye contact when you are making a presentation or involved in a negotiation situation.

-Look directly at your client or audience, particularly if you are greeting them or meeting them for the first time. Direct eye contact is seen as an indication of confidence.
-Even if you do not personally meet the members of your audience, acknowledge them by looking at them directly.
-As you are speaking, look at your audience or client. Scan the room from side to side and try to briefly make eye contact with everyone.

-€˜Lock€™ eyes with your audience. Too much eye contact is almost as off-putting for your audience as too little. It is often tempting if there is someone in the audience who is giving lots of listening body language to focus on them and forget the rest of the audience. Be very conscious of moving your eyes across the whole room.

Facial expression
The second important factor that makes an impression in those first few seconds is facial expression.
-Does this person look pleased to see me?
-Are they smiling?
-Do I believe that smile?

A broad smile is the most effective expression in most situations. It will help put your audience at ease and give the impression that you are happy to be there. But change your expression from time to time. Smiling broadly all the time is hard on the facial muscles and you will find your smile €˜slipping€™, which does not give you a genuine appearance.
As with eye contact, you must be conscious of your facial expressions and €˜manage€™ your expressions.

Personal grooming
This is the third aspect of personal appearance and grooming.Have you ever been talking to people and noticed that instead of looking you in the eye they are staring at some other part of your face? After a while this starts to make you uncomfortable and you start to worry about what it is that they are being distracted by. You rub your nose, or run your tongue over your teeth, or smooth your hair down to try and remove the distracting object.

This €˜looking elsewhere€™ is a €˜game€™ that you can try on someone as long as you don€™t mind if they never speak to you again!
Before you begin your presentation, check carefully in a mirror or have a friend check that your grooming is intact. Make sure that your hair is neat and in place.Check teeth to make sure there is nothing stuck to them (you know, that last annoying piece of food or lipstick smudges).Make sure that your clothes are neat and uncreased, all appropriate buttons and zips are done up, shoes are clean.Dry your hands on a hand towel if you are prone to sweaty palms when you are nervous.
Use the bathroom before your presentation so that you feel as comfortable as you are trying to look!

This is the fourth aspect of personal appearance and grooming which will make an impression on your audience.

Try these simple techniques:
-Stand up straight.
-Lift your chin.
-Put your shoulders back.
-Tuck your tummy in.
-Tuck your bottom under.

Now, relax! You don€™t have to maintain military stiffness, but you do need to stand upright comfortably.Upright posture not only conveys a positive impression but will also help your breath and voice control when you are speaking.When you are standing, stand with your feet slightly apart and with one foot slightly in front of the other. This helps you to maintain your balance.

If you are seated, don€™t slouch. Again, this can be seen as a defensive posture, which will not help your audience have confidence in you.Decide whether or not you intend to shake hands with members of your audience before the presentation. This may be a particular consideration for women if it is not an accepted part of your business culture. Be prepared to respond with a firm, positive handshake if a member of your audience offers a handshake first.Let€™s now consider how you should dress for your presentation. As you read earlier in this Section, we have decided to treat dress as a separate issue.



Appropriate dress
Having considered your general appearance and grooming, let€™s now consider the type of dress that is appropriate. There are no formulas that describe exactly how you should dress for presentations. The care you demonstrate in your dress and general grooming can express to your audience your interest and commitment to your task.

Choosing appropriate dress relies on:
-what you know about your audience
-what makes you comfortable,
-some practical considerations.
Let€™s consider your audience first.
-What do you know about them?
-What do you know about the type of clothes that they will be wearing?
Most speakers want to wear clothes that are similar to their audience. If you don€™t know how your audience will dress, it is probably better to dress up rather than down.

Now we€™ll think about what makes you feel comfortable.
Think about what your clothes say about you – relaxed and casual, formal and conservative, sense of humour – and then decide if this is the image you want to convey. Dressing for comfort means selecting clothes that you know look good on you and that you feel good wearing.
Here are some practical considerations when choosing your clothes.
-Check in a mirror first that you can safely and comfortably raise your arms to write on a blackboard or to flip charts over a stand.
-Consider the background colours in your venue so that you can stand out from your surroundings. Wearing dark colours and then standing in a darkened room to show slides or standing against a blackboard may mean that your audience loses you!

-Dark clothes are also difficult if you have to use a blackboard as they will show up the chalk dust!
-Avoid loud patterns or colours unless you deliberately want to make an impression.
-Wear fabrics that will not crush.
-Keep jewellery discreet.
-If in doubt about the clothes that you have chosen ask a friend whose opinion you trust to give you some advice.Choosing clothes that are appropriate to both your audience, your venue and the physical demands of your presentation will make you feel more comfortable and in control.So far we have looked at using your voice effectively and the type of language to use. We have looked at personal appearance and grooming and selecting appropriate dress. The next presentation skill to consider is projecting an air of confidence and establishing rapport with your audience.


Projecting Confidence

If you can project an air of confidence then your audience will relax with you believing that you are capable and in control. It lays the foundation for establishing rapport with your audience. If you appear nervous and agitated then your audience will feel the same way. Positive body language is all about appearing confident and in control. It is important to smile and make your audience feel welcome and using eye contact to acknowledge your audience and to include them as you speak.

Some other positive body language strategies include:
-being conscious of your body language and trying to remain relaxed and comfortable
-showing your interest and enthusiasm through your voice, gestures and facial expressions
-speaking to your audience and not reading your notes
-standing in front of barriers such as tables or lecterns, rather than behind them
-being prepared before your audience arrives so that everything is ready to begin
-being confident in your use of any equipment

If anything does go wrong, remain calm. Acknowledge the problem and then decide how to deal with it. Advise your audience about what is going on. If they are informed, they will be patient, especially if they have confidence that the problem will be fixed.Another factor that can create positive feelings with your audience is to begin speaking in a confident and interesting way so that you gain their attention and interest.Let€™s look at some strategies for gaining their attention.
-State an interesting fact or tell an interesting story related to your presentation.
-Ask a question related to your topic that requires some kind of response from the audience.
-Make a startling statement relevant to your topic.

-Use an audio or visual cue such as a loud fanfare or a segment of video.

Should you use humour?
Yes, IF:
-You can find a joke or humorous story that relates directly to your topic.
-The audience is not likely to be offended.
-You are good at telling jokes!

Establishing rapport with your audience is an important step in ensuring the success of your presentation. Being nervous is a natural reaction to speaking before an audience or beginning a face-to-face negotiation.
Let€™s now consider some techniques that you can use to build your confidence in these situations.

Strategies for building confidence
Listed below are six strategies that will help build your confidence.

1. Be organised. Knowing that you are organised and that everything is ready is the greatest confidence booster there is.

2. Rehearse. Practise, using a mirror or, if you can, using a video recorder or a tape recorder. This will allow you to polish your presentation. Using a video recorder to video yourself is also quite stressful so you will have some practise speaking when you are nervous.

3. Visualise. When you think about delivering your presentation, focus on being successful. Imagine walking into the room and feeling confidant, delivering your presentation flawlessly and with enthusiasm. Think about answering questions with confidence and the feeling of satisfaction you will have when the presentation has finished.

4 Breathe correctly. Practise the deep breathing technique discussed in Activity 9. Concentrating on your breathing and slowing your body down will take your mind off your nerves.

5. Relieve tension. Your body€™s reaction when it is under stress is to tighten all the muscles in preparation for €˜fight or flight€™. Fighting or fleeing are not options that are open to you when you are about to make a presentation so you have to have some means of relieving the tension in your muscles.A simple exercise involves concentrating on muscles that are especially tight, such as those in your legs, and hands. Tighten them as much as possible and then relax. Repeat this exercise several times so that you can feel the difference when they are tense and when they are relaxed.

The advantage of this exercise is that it can be done without anyone else knowing.
6. Move around. This works in the same way as the simple tightening and relaxing exercise mentioned previously. Moving helps to keep muscles from becoming too tense. Use hand gestures and head movements to keep your upper body from becoming too stiff and tense.Most of us have habits or gestures that we use when we are nervous or tense. Some of them may be running fingers around the insides of collars, clearing your throat frequently, jiggling one knee up and down.
The following activity asks you to identify your own nervous gestures so that you can be conscious of them and hopefully eliminate them.

In this section we have discussed presentation skills that relate to how well you present yourself. The aspects that we have considered are:
-voice production and use of language
-personal appearance and grooming
-appropriate dress
-establishing rapport
-building confidence

The five techniques that contribute to voice production are:

Voice production:
The physical mechanisms with the human body that produce sound are:
-breath control
-use of vocal chords
-movement of mouth and jaw.
Three aspects of the use of language to consider are:
-word usage and pronunciation
-use of jargon and colloquial expressions.

Four factors that contribute to effective personal appearance and grooming are:
-eye contact
-facial expression
-general grooming

Choosing appropriate dress depends on:
-what you know about your audience
-what makes you comfortable
-practical considerations

Rapport is the process of making a positive connection with a person or group of people. Two ways to help establish rapport with an audience are to:
-learn about your audience
-use positive body language to appear confident and organised

Continue to the next topics to read about writing skills and other essential skills.