One of the primary tenets of any successful presentation design is the establishment of "tone."
When it comes to presentations, the term tone refers to much more than merely an individual's "tone of voice." The tone of a presentation is really about audience perception. The simple truth is that your success or failure at anything – whether ordering a hamburger in a restaurant or speaking to a 5,000 person assembly – is largely contingent upon how you are received by the person or persons you are speaking to.
Tone then, is really all about the way an audience is affected by (and therefore perceives) the sum of everything you do; from the way you speak, your gestures and the subject matter, to the way you dress.
A presentation's tone is contingent upon the many details, large and small, that collectively contributes to an overall impression: Was the subject matter enjoyable and useful? Was the presenter inviting? Did participants feel welcome? These are all questions of tone, and understanding how tone works and how to set the tone you want (need) is extremely important.
Any time a situation requires audience buy-in or a response of some kind – regardless of whether your audience is one or 1,000 – your best hope for communication lies in your ability to tailor the tone of the presentation to that specific audience. In my book, Inspire Any Audience, I spend a great deal of time going over the ins and outs of setting appropriate tone for a given situation. Different audiences and topics require different tones in order to be successful.
For example, the success of a presentation for a charity fund-raiser to a local high school group hinges on a tone that is most likely different than the one you would establish for a marketing presentation to a group of bank CEOs.
As complicated as some like to make the issue of establishing tone, when it's all said and done, it all comes down to one simple, golden rule:
It is a recognized fact that people dread attending most presentations almost as much as they dread giving them. Why? Because presentations have a reputation for being boring.
Let's face it; for most of us, our entire education has been "administered" to us in one form of a lecture or other. The lecture format for relaying information though now considered outdated by many education and training professionals – has been the tried and true method for generations. The good news is that while few people enjoy being lectured, most everyone enjoys a lively conversation. The trick is in creating a conversational tone with even large groups, a feat that is ideally accomplished within the first two or three minutes of a presentation. In an attempt to make this easier to accomplish for the readers of my book, I have condensed from years of study and experience a listing of the 10 key tips for appearing conversational with even the largest groups. They are:
Try to talk with not at your audience
Use conversational language and avoid large, multi-syllable words
Ask questions immediately and listen to the answers
Get the audience involved, even if it means having them stand and shake each other's hands
Place nothing between you and your audience – avoid lecterns, podiums and risers when possible
Mingle with your audience – if possible, actually walk into the audience
Use participant names whenever possible and encourage them to use yours
Smile – it's a natural conversation starter
Use humor when and where you can
Use personal anecdotes and stories – they give your audience something to relate to and make the presentation experientialAs simple as these tips may initially seem, they are very powerful. Consistently applied, they are guaranteed to not only improve your presentations, but also increase your confidence and comfort level in front of any room.
Tony Jeary – Mr. PresentationTM - is the author of 7 books on the subject of presentation, including Inspire Any Audience and The Complete Guide to Effective Facilitation. For more information about Tony or to order his products and save 20-40% go to www.yoursuccessstore.com.