One of the easiest and most affordable methods to step up how you “express” yourself is also one of the least utilized tools: the video camera!
I know… I know! Watching yourself on video can be incredibly painful and awkward. You probably cringe seeing yourself or hearing your voice on a recording.
Why is that? We’re used to seeing a reflection of ourselves in the mirror, yet our mind doesn’t think a video is an accurate representation of how we look. Our voice sounds differently inside our head than it sounds through our ears, so nothing even sounds quite right.
Despite the discomfort, there’s really no better way to see how you look and sound than to record and watch a recent presentation. So pour a hot mug of coffee, take out your note pad, and sit down for a quick self-assessment.
Here are some questions to consider as you assess your delivery.
How fast or slow are you speaking? Is your pace steady and understandable? We tend to speed up when we are nervous and excited, sometimes to the point where people might not understand all that we had to say. While variation in your pace is certainly helpful, you want to make sure you avoid extremes.
Are you pronouncing words clearly? This can be especially problematic in rooms that aren’t well supported through quality audio reinforcement. While over-enunciation can create microphone noise, people need to hear those consonants in order to understand what you are saying.
Volume & Tone
Are you using the variety of your voice? Do your choices support the content of your presentation, or are they seemingly random changes? And if you choose to speak quietly in order to draw the audience in, are you still loud enough that everyone can hear and understand?
Are you accomplishing a happy medium with your gestures? Gestures should accomplish a purpose–emphasizing a point or helping the audience “get” the story. You don’t want to have your hands awkwardly at your side throughout the presentation, but neither do you want to be flailing like an octopus!
Is your eye contact varied and meaningful? Or are you so wed to your notes that people only see the bald spot on top of your head? Are you spreading the wealth of eye contact with the entire audience or are you only looking at one section or the back wall?
Spending an hour every few months for a self-evaluation can truly help your presentation skills. Take notes and pick just one or two areas to work on. In a few months, repeat the process and see how you did, celebrating your successes in those areas. By taking a few small steps to improve your craft, you should be able to increase your impact and connection with your audience.