When Can We Turn “It” On? – Matching Presentation Style to Purpose
As you explore more public speaking techniques or communication styles, you will find yourself thinking about choosing the communication style for a specific setting. For some, presentation styles may seem like an artificial mask to put on during a presentation. The difficulty may also stem from deciding how and when you would adopt a specific speaking style while on stage. It is not uncommon for some of our students to find exploring a new style as ‘unnatural’.
However, presentation styles are powerful tools to engage your audience – deciding how to present yourself on stage also means knowing more about what your audience wants. If you prefer to stick with a “usual” style for different audience profiles, you may end up with a disengaged and disinterested audience. Each style plays around with energy (e.g., your volume, presence), structure (e.g., format), and message. Depending on the setting, you can pick a combination that appeals to the crowd.
To help you out, here’s a 3-step framework to help you choose the best presentation style for your audience!
Step #1: Identify the Specific Tone
The first aspect to consider is the tone you are aiming for. To clarify, the tone does not just refer to your vocal tone (i.e., pitch) elements – instead, think of “tone” as the overall experience or ‘feel’ you would like your audience to explore in your presentation. The aim is to create a coherent and consistent tone. As a communicator, you will need to consider the overall effect of your presentation (macro-level) before picking out the specific traits to try (micro-level).
To start modifying the tone through your speaking style, choose between a formal or informal tone first. The former does not mean a less entertaining style – instead, a formal tone can result in a high-energy presentation. However, asking this question at the start will remind you of any decorum required (e.g., presenting before C-level management may require more balanced vocal elements but can incorporate stage positioning). From there, you can start to account for the specific elements in your body language (e.g., eye contact, vocal variety). Identify the tone or set the tone you want your audience to be in!
Step #2: Match With Purpose
Another broad aspect that can help you choose your presentation style is “purpose”. What do you want to achieve in your presentation? For example, an informative purpose (e.g., technical presentation) will need a speaking style that maximises the audience understanding. This can be in the form of a slower speaking speed, more engaged eye contact, or the inclusion of pattern breaks in your delivery. You are ensuring that your overall presentation and delivery style brings the audience to the intended objective.
You can focus on three general purposes that will result in different speaking styles. We have shared earlier about the informative purpose for which a more measured style focused on understanding may be preferred. For a speech with an inspirational/motivational purpose, you may want to adopt heightened body language cues, such as a higher volume profile. For a story-telling purpose, you can experiment with modulations in your delivery elements (e.g., sudden change in volume, more engagement with the audience).
Step #3: Vary, Experiment, Excel!
When we explore speaking styles, the goal is not to master and stick to one style for all your presentations. As we shared, building variety in your presentation styles is one of the better methods of ensuring that you have a toolkit to engage your audience. Start by exploring different presentation styles and applying them in small stakes setting to test their impact. You can even start a journaling process to keep track of the audience reaction!
Modifying your presentation style or experimenting with them does not entail a revamp of your character. Instead of doing a complete overhaul, pick out 1 or 2 body language elements to implement in your next presentation. For example, if your aim is to present with higher energy, try modifying your volume control and introduce pauses to add vocal emphasis. As you grow more comfortable, you can expand your body language range and arrange them based on the style you prefer!
*** When a “one-trick-pony”-ish presenter meets a different genre of speech ***
Be that Versatile Communicator
Being a communicator on stage requires you to unpack and find out what can engage your audience directly. With more speaking styles under your belt, you will feel more comfortable reacting on stage to your audience in making them feel comfortable. So, for your next speech or presentation, remember to think of which speaking style you want to adopt for your audience using your 3-step framework!
WATCH “Episode 004 LIVE! Voice on fire 🔥 , public speaking for non-native English speakers”:
By The Way…
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