Maybe when you watch your pastor or priest give a sermon, you think, “That’s not so hard.”
After all, it’s likely that this sermon was given behind a pulpit with some notes and not a lot of movement.
It’s a lot harder than you think. In fact, when giving a sermon like that, it’s even harder without movement to keep the congregation’s attention.
Maybe your pastor or priest doesn’t use a pulpit – some don’t. Then they have the extra presentation skills to help – or hurt – them.
Think I’m wrong?
Watch these two videos.
Both of these videos are meant to be silly parodies of TED Talks, a series of speech presentations that maybe you’ve seen on the Internet or on tv. (You’ll never watch them the same way after seeing these two videos!) Each of these speakers has great presentation skills. They have shown that just by using their voices, gestures, and stage movements, they can look persuasive and interesting, when in fact, they got nothing.
The power of speech isn’t only in the content. It’s in the presentation skills used to reach the audience.
What Are Presentation Skills?
I’m so glad you asked.
Presentation skills are the actions you use to present your speech. They include
- Stage presence/use
- Body Language
- Vocal Variety
- Hand Gestures
- Eye Contact
- Posture and Positions
- Visual Aids
Presentation skills are so important that without them, you really don’t have a speech.
Speaking is an art form like dance or acting. It requires a physical component. You have to be seen. You have to create a presence on the stage with your body, your voice, your ideas and your credibility.
When you’re about to exercise, you warm up your muscles with stretches and small bursts of energy. A musician will practice scales. An athlete will practice jumps or lunges. Speakers warm up with all three!
All of these exercises will be done standing up, so get out of your chair or off your bed and get to work.
- Open your mouth widely and say “HA” ten times with a short, quick breaths as needed.
- Practice tongue-twisters.
- Move your eyebrows up and down.
- Drop your jaw to your chest and raise it back up again slowly.
- Stretch out your arms and shake your hands. Shake each leg (still standing – works on your balance) and your hips. Dance to some music.
- Bend at the waist in all directions.
- Lunge to each side. Practice squats (don’t do this in high heels, ladies.)
- Sing a children’s song or a scale.
By warming up your voice and your body, you develop some kinesthetic awareness of your range of motion. This helps burn off some of the stage fright adrenaline that goes through your system.
Assess the Stage
The stage is the area you have to perform. Sometimes it’s very tight, sometimes it’s very wide. You’ll have to look at it and determine what you’re going to use for your presentation. If you’re going to be recorded, then this space may be limited by the camera. It’s important not to be too close to the audience; you make the people in the front row uncomfortable and they’ll be looking up your nose. Not good for anyone! If you move too far back, then you won’t connect with your audience as well. It’s a difficult balance to find.
Wait for Your Introduction
Every speaker needs a good introduction. The smart speaker provides one to the master of ceremonies that will give the audience the speaker’s names, credentials, and title of the speech. If you can craft an introduction that will set the mood for the audience, you’ve done your job. Wait for the MC to say your name, then come to the stage and shake hands with that person, and wait until they leave the stage before beginning.
Try to practice your presentation skills whenever you have a chance. When you talk to someone, make eye-contact with them instead of looking around. Stand still instead of swaying when you’re in a line at the store. Stand up straight. Use your voice in different ways. All of these things will help you become a better speaker.