Tips for Career Success – Tip 16: Stand Up and Smile

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Tip 16: Stand Up and Smile

There are countless classes and groups that can help us with public speaking, and I’ve been involved with more than I care to admit.  I have done demo training, public speaking training, media relations training, toast-masters, and more.  You name it, and I have probably attended a workshop.  However, the best advice I ever received for how to be a better presenter did not come from any of those classes, workshops, or groups.  It came right after I had delivered a rivetingly mediocre presentation at the beginning of a day of training that I was teaching.  The advice was simple: any time that you are giving a presentation, teaching a class, or just speaking to a group of people, stand up and smile

This advice did not make a lot of sense to me at first.  I had been presenting to some degree for quite some time.  I had given presentations in front of colleagues, I had taught other training courses, and I even was providing the occasional technical demonstration.  Going back further to college, I was always the person that would either volunteer or be volunteered to speak in front of groups.  Whether it was as the chosen spokesperson for a class project or a particularly horrific occasion where I was asked at the last minute to introduce our travel abroad team to a church of over 500 attendees in the Ukraine, I seemed to always find my way into a presenter role.  So, if this advice was so important, why had I never heard it before?  With my concerns in tow, I questioned the validity of the advice and was impressed with the logic behind it.

Why Stand Up?

Standing up serves two purposes: it makes you easier to see, and it makes you easier to hear.  By standing, and being easier to see, you can introduce non-verbal communication into a presentation.  You can use your hands to gesture toward items you are talking about on a screen, or you can more easily move about the room or stage to make eye contact with more members of your audience. 

With the advice I received, I was instructed to stand up even if I was providing a remote demo and no one could see me.  Why, you may wonder?  Try it out and you will see.  Standing opens up your airway and allows you to speak more clearly.  Compare how you sound when you are seated, and likely hunched over a bit vs how you sound when you stand and open up your diaphragm more.  A quick exercise to see this for yourself.  Sit down with your chin against your chest and begin saying or singing the alphabet.  Then, slowly lift your chin to facing forward or even angled slightly up while still reciting your alphabet.  Notice the change in natural volume and voice control.  Repeat the exercise again, but this time start off seated with your back curved forward and work your body up to a standing position.  In both of these examples, you can think of what is happening as the same effect you would see if you were blowing into a bent straw and slowly straightened the straw out.  As more air can move through, the easier it is for sound to come out, and the easier and more natural talking will feel for you.

Why Smile?

By smiling, you naturally project warmth in your voice that makes your voice seem more welcoming.  The next time you are on a call (because it feels a little awkward when you do it in person the first time), stand up and put on your biggest smile while you speak.  Make note of how different you sound.  I think it is impossible not to sound friendlier, warmer, more welcoming, and more likeable when you are talking with a giant smile across your face.  After practicing your newfound smile-talking skill a few times, break it out in a live, face-to-face meeting, and notice how people smile back at you.  It is incredible how much more receptive people will be to a smiling person than to a sour Gus (sorry Gus). 

Smiling does more than just make the people you are presenting to feel better; it makes you feel better too.  Studies have recently shown the many benefits of smiling.  One major benefit is that when we smile, our bodies release certain chemicals that make us feel happier, reduce our stress, and have even been proven to increase life-expectancy.  The two primary chemicals released when we smile are dopamine and serotonin.  These are the chemicals that make us feel happy and reduce our stress (respectively).  The reduction .  So, when you’re working up a reason to break out that big, cheesy smile, remember that smiling is just as good for you as it is for the people who get to see your pearly whites.

Summary

In summary, when you find yourself presenting – whether to a large crowd or a small group – remember to stand up  and smile.  The combination of these two simple things will make you a better presenter… right away.  I hope you found this article useful.  You can get more analytics insights exploring our blog and e-newsletter. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the PMsquare Journal for more technical articles and updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Join us again next month for Tip 15: Be Humble.

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CareerDustin Adkison