First, a warning - this tip won't work until you first try it out on willing colleagues. Then you're up for a surprising - for some, astonishing - discovery.
The projection experiment
Round up a few colleagues willing to be guinea pigs. Tell them you want to try out an experiment that connects projection and presence. Then:
- Choose a work-related topic you can speak about for a few sentences (15 to 20 seconds is plenty).
- Find a large empty room. Sit your colleagues around a table at one end of the room as if for a small meeting.
- Tell them, "I'm going to project so that you think my voice is just right for loudness and clarity. If it's not enough, tell me and I'll adjust it."
- Go to the far end of the room and do it. Listen to their comments. Adjust your projection.
- Now come back and sit at the table and speak about your topic with the same voice you used at the back of the room. (It's likely to feel as if you're shouting rudely at them - but make yourself do it.)
- Then ask them the crucial question, "Was that too loud?"
How most audiences react
Your colleagues are likely to say things like, "No way, that's not too loud." "It sounded good." "You sounded more believable." "You've got more presence and authority." Some people are so suprised by that feedback they can hardly believe it. They protest, "But I was shouting at you!" And yet that audience reaction happens to least 80% of those who attend my presentation skills workshop here in New Zealand.
How could that be?
The experiment exposes a phenomenon I call minimal presence - a severe speaking liability for kiwi presenters. In our culture we have become used to speaking only just loud enough to be heard by the person in the middle of the audience. The audience assumes that you have minimal presence, minimal personal authority. We can do better than that.
Here's the solution.
Project strongly enough to be heard by an invisible person well beyond the furthest real person in your audience
Notice that it's project rather than speak louder, which is slightly different. When you project your voice is louder, but it also rises slightly in pitch.
Now all you have to do is cope with the voice in your head which whispers Don't take the risk, you might look foolish. Will you listen to that voice? Or will you send it to its room?
If you try it - yourself or the whole group - I would love to hear how it goes. You can contact me via Contact us on the home page of this website.