As a speaker trainer and coach, I focus a lot on delivery skills. Some clients get frustrated, because they think the heart of the matter should be what they’re saying – not what they’re doing. But a focus on content is not the key to a successful presentation. Research has confirmed that 93 percent of your communication impact comes from how you look and sound. That’s going to determine how your content is interpreted. I use the acronym S.P.E.A.K.E.R. to capture the seven key delivery skills a speaker should master.
Smile Posture Eye Communication Appearance Kinesics Expressive Vocals Resting Places for Your Hands
This article deals with Appearance.
While most of the other points in my SPEAKER acronym also deal with some aspect of appearance, I created this category to deal with two very specific subsets of your appearance: attire and distracting mannerisms. This article covers Distracting Mannerisms. When you’re in front of a room, you want an appearance that commands attention, gives you credibility, imbues you with power. How you appear to your audience has an impact on your believability and how receptive they’ll be to your message. Distracting Mannerisms can detract from this appearance.
Have you ever seen a speaker do or say something that absolutely drove you to distraction? Things like jingling change in his pocket, or playing with her hair, or saying “um” every few seconds. If you want an appearance that’s poised and credible in front of an audience, be aware of and avoid any of those little pesky traits that serve no purpose except to drive an audience crazy. If you remember that movement that’s purposeful has power, then any movement that’s not purposeful is a distracting mannerism. Let’s look at three categories:
1. Anything you put in your hands. A prop gives you purposeful movement. If you held up a globe to point out a location in Asia, that would be purposeful. But if you didn’t put it down afterwards, and just started idly spinning it on its axis while you were talking, that wouldn’t be purposeful, just distracting.
Other examples: repeatedly clicking a pen, twisting a paper clip every which way, folding and bending your notes, fiddling with the cordless mouse so much that the PowerPoint advances several slides. None of these actions is purposeful, and the end result is an appearance that conveys anxiety and discomfort. The best rule of thumb is, unless you have a specific, purposeful use for an object, keep things out of your hands. That way, you won’t be tempted to play with them.
2. Yourself. This includes playing with your hair, fingering a button, twisting a ring, playing with jewelry, tugging at your cuffs, shoving glasses up your nose, etc. It’s one thing to purposefully brush a lock of hair out of your. But when those kinds of movements are repetitive, they serve no purpose, except to distract.
3. Vocal tics. You know, haven’t you, um, ever heard, uh, a speaker who, you know, couldn’t seem to, ah, get through a sentence, you know, without, um, filling it with nonwords.
These nonwords–also called fillers, vocal tics, word whiskers–have no meaning. They’re not purposeful. The most common culprits are: um, uh, and you know. But it could be anything. I’ve heard speakers whose fillers were whole sentences. One that comes to mind is a man who ended virtually every sentence with, “Ya know what I mean?” When the fillers are overwhelming, the audience isn’t listening to what you say. They’re too busy counting the “ums”.
The thing about distracting mannerisms is that they’re just that-distracting. They detract from what we have to say and usually make us look nervous and ill at ease. The best way I know to avoid these nasty image-detractors is to get yourself videotaped. Only when you see yourself as others do can you really appreciate how you might be sabotaging your presence in front of an audience.