Presenting with Power

Often academics are so focused on what they have to say, that they forget to think about how they say it. When professors practice introductions in my workshop on speaking with authority, it becomes clear that small tweaks go a long way in how a person comes across. Making the following easy changes will pack a lot more power into your performance:

A happy businesswoman is speaking at a podium

  1. Stride purposefully to the front of the room. You set a tone even before you take the stage.
  2. Turn and fully face your audience, pause, take a breath, and make eye contact with those who are there to hear you, before you begin to speak. I call this “claiming the audience.”
  3. When introducing yourself, say your name S-L-O-W-L-Y. This is even more important if you have a hyphenated last name, or a name that is unfamiliar to many members of your audience. What feels slow as molasses to you is comfortable for audience members who are grateful to be able to catch the unfamiliar words.
  4. To show authority, begin your introduction with your hands at your sides and your fingers slightly curled. Once you’ve conveyed your expertise, add gestures to strike a friendlier tone.
  5. Resist the urge to fiddle with your ring or twist your earring. At first leaving your hands hanging at your sides will feel like having a dead fish at the end of each arm, but this posture conveys strength and authority to your listeners, and you will become more comfortable with practice.
  6. End with flair by practicing a strong closing. Rather than rushing off, pause for a moment or two and absorb the applause before taking leave of the stage.

There are many other actions that speakers can take to add variety and interest to their speaking, but attention to the previous six steps will pay immediate dividends in holding your audiences’ attention.