Speaking skills for an audience of, say, three or four? It sounds unlikely, doesn't it? Turn on the passion and their jaws drop. Who plugged you in? What have you been eating? Did you forget your pills today?

That reaction is what most of us fear. So - especially here in our laid-back kiwi culture - we adopt what I call minimal presence. That's just enough volume to be heard. Which means that our natural passion for our topics is lost, along with our ability to persuade others. Who cuts down the tall poppies?

We do it to ourselves.

There's no need for it. I can tell you, based on hundreds of practical training workshops, that most of us can increase our energy and presence significantly without producing the reaction we fear.

Here's how to do it. Take it in small chunks and it won't look like a big special deal to anyone. The only reaction you'll get is that your informal audiences will listen to you more than usual.

How to be more engaging in a small meeting

Take small steps like these and you have nothing to fear and lots to gain:

  • Sit up in your chair slightly more than you do now.
  • Speak up so that you can be easily heard by the person furthest from you.
  • Be slightly more emphatic in your speech - even for content that doesn't spin your wheels. If your body moves a little more than usual, let it happen.
  • As you speak, make sure you reach every individual with direct eye contact - just enough to show that you do intend your words to get to that person also. That's a significant part of being persuasive.

Better still, confide in someone who's going to be at the meeting and get feedback. And the best feedback is in the meeting itself. Agree on a subtle signal: too much / too little / just right.

It's ok to be seen to make an effort

If we want to be a strong, confident presence, we have to get used to this radical idea: It's okay for them to see me making an effort to be persuasive.

Even in a small, informal meeting.