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No, you won’t need a box of tissues. We’re talking about one particular emotion that boosts your credibility. It's this particular desire: I want you to understand what I'm talking about. You have to want that, and you have to show the audience that you want it.

Why it's important

Making your desire to be understood obvious is highly persuasive.

Here’s what’s going on. Research suggests that the human brain registers feelings before the associated thoughts. We can’t make a decision until we know how we feel about the decision. That’s true even in scientific and technical audiences, no matter how much they pride themselves on their logic and no matter how good your facts.

Your greatest impact on the audience is not in facts, it's in emotions - yours and theirs.

You can’t fool the audience. The group mind can sense your greatest emotion as easily as seeing an x-ray. If your greatest emotion is fear, your most dominant message is, I feel bad, I’m not enjoying your company -  which stifles your message and your credibility in the minds of even the most sympathetic audience. You can’t just cancel fear, but you can make it irrelevant with a much easier emotion - This is important. I'm keen for you to understand it.

How to use this tip to improve your presentation

Here’s the tip in full. If you’re focused on how nervous you are, deliberately switch your thoughts—focus instead on how much you want the audience to grasp your topic… on how interesting, useful or important you want it to be to them. Keep focusing on that desire until it is your dominant emotion.

In my presentation skills workshops, the conversation often goes like this. The trainee delivers a few sentences with obvious nervousness, so I interrupt.

Me: “Wait a minute.”
Trainee: “What?”
Me: “Are you interested in your own topic?”
Trainee (surprised): “Yes.”
Me: “Really? It’s not showing. Do you want us to get what you’re saying?”
Trainee (now slightly offended): “Yes! Of course! Isn’t it obvious?”
Me: “No.” (An answer usually supported by grins from the other trainees.) “How about showing us with your tone and body language and the glint in your eye that you want us to get it?”

Ah… a light dawns. What follows often has so much more credibility and impact that the others break into spontaneous applause. Very satisfying.

Transform your speaking

Speakers who build and show the desire for the audience to get their message suddenly become fluent. The words arrive effortlessly, ums and ahs disappear, time flies and suddenly they’re thinking, Hey, I’m enjoying this!




Interested in a workshop on presentation skills for your team?

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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