How to Smile More During Your Presentation

Big Smile

“When I see pictures or video of myself speaking, I look mean!  Frankly, I look like a bitch,” said my new presentation client.  “I smile in conversation, when I’m off stage, but I don’t smile enough during my presentations. What can I do?”

My client clearly knew the value of connecting with her audience through smiling.  You can be an audience magnet with your smile.  Here are a few tips to increase smiles in your presentations:

1. Be passionate and enthusiastic about your content.  If you aren’t excited, why should your audience be excited?

2. Don’t practice in front of a mirror–draw faces (eyes) on a few sheets of paper and place them around the room.  Talk to the eyes, making sustained eye contact (for a complete thought, usually a sentence, but not always).

3. Practice portions of your presentation conversationally, one-on-one (or one-on-two or three).  Talk about your content with friends, family and colleagues. If you smile more in conversation, practicing conversationally will help you speak more conversationally and should also increase your natural smiles.

4. Set up a mirror at your desk to see what you look like while talking on the phone (answer with a smile).

5. Don’t memorize, internalize!  Don’t try to memorize your content word for word (aside from perhaps your opening and closing lines and a few key phrases).  Practice from keywords.  When most people try to memorize a speech, they expend a great deal of mental energy—energy that could be used to focus on the audience.

6. Limber up with laughing on the way to the presentation—either in your car or in your hotel room.  Laughing in a restroom might be rather odd, though.

7. Stretch in a restroom prior to your presentation, including doing some facial stretches. Releasing tension and relaxing your muscles will make it easier to smile.

8. Listen to upbeat music prior to your presentation, if possible.

9. Start out smiling! Smile at your introducer and smile at the audience prior to speaking. Then you have made a memorable and smiling first impression!

10. End with a smile, too! Leave your audience with the lingering feeling that you enjoyed your topic and you enjoyed them as an audience.

Do you have other suggestions for ways to smile more during a presentation?

Smile More to Persuade

Big Smile

With very little effort, you can become a more persuasive speaker.

It’s as simple as smiling more.

Even the shortest of exposures to a smiling face can influence decisions.

In a research project discussed in Francesca Gino’s recent book, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan, college students viewed a series of photographs, which included a 16 millisecond display of a photograph of a person expressing an emotion.  The 16 millisecond display was the “subliminal prime” which meant that the students could not consciously recognize the photo.   Prior to viewing the photos, the students were handed a note supposedly from another student encouraging them to take part later in another, unpaid beverage-tasting study.

“Among those subliminally primed with angry faces, 24 percent decided to take part in the beverage study; 41 percent of those subliminally primed with neutral faces decided to participate; and 62 percent of those subliminally primed with happy faces decided to participate.”  And, of those who participated in the beverage study, those viewing happy faces drank more.

Seeing a smiling face increases persuasion.

Additionally, by smiling, you create an emotional contagion, which also increases persuasion.

Have you ever noticed that when you are smiling in conversation (or in a presentation) that others tend to smile back?  Often this is a subconscious mimicking.  The very act of subconscious mimicking leads the person to experience the emotions mimicked.  And, emotions influence decisions.

Create a positive persuasive pull with smiling more.

Positive emotions pull.  Negative emotions push.

You will be less persuasive if you express anger.  Sure, you may get temporary compliance or agreement when you expressing anger, but you won’t be truly persuasive.

Or, as Ben Franklin once said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Persuade with a smile.

Why Do Some Speakers Shine and Others Choke?

Confident vs. Nervous Speaker

Do you want to shine in front of an audience?  To perform at your best?

Imagine that you have been a public speaker for 10 years and that you are about to speak in front of a large audience.  Do you think your performance will be enhanced or worsened compared to when you practiced alone?

Odds are, you will shine.

Now imagine that you have been asked to speak in front of a large audience and you never have done so.  Do you think your performance will be better or worse in front of an audience?

Odds are, you will choke.

Shining or choking largely comes down to two factors:

1. Experience

2. The audience arousal effect

Essentially, any task, including public speaking, which is well learned and with which you have a long history of experience is likely to be enhanced in front of an audience.

Social psychologists call this “social facilitation.”

Evidence for social facilitation abounds, even with non-humans.  Rats eat faster when in a cage with other rats and ants in a sandbox dig more when with other ants.

On the flip side, a task which is not well learned or one with which you do not have a long history of experience is likely to be impaired in front of an audience.

Why does an audience affect your performance?

In a book I’m reading, The Social Psychology of Behaviour in Small Groups, by Donald Pennington, two theories of the “audience arousal effect” are offered:

1. Evaluation apprehension–your concern that you may be evaluated.

2. Distraction-Conflict Theory–the audience acts as a distraction.  Conflict arises as to whether to pay attention to the audience or to the task at hand.

The graphic below summarizes the shine vs. choke response:

Performing in front of an audience

So, what do you need to do to shine?  To have “social facilitation” and NOT “impairment?”

The number one thing you need to do is to gain experience speaking in front of an audience.

Or, as 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix says, “Stage time. Stage time. Stage time.”

Where can you get that stage time?

  • At Toastmasters (Communication and leadership organization with local clubs)
  • At work–volunteer to give presentations
  • At conferences
  • At volunteer organizations–speak in an organization you belong to or volunteer to speak on your area of expertise at service organizations, such as Rotary

Other ideas?

Prepare to shine!

Speak Conversationally

Hispanic Woman Speaker

Have you ever given a prepared speech that fell flat?  Have you gone into “speaker mode?”  Has your speech felt a little stilted?

Been there.  Done that.

A couple of years ago, I watched a video of myself in “speaker mode” or “performance mode” and I cringed.  I had all the right elements:

Carefully crafted phrases.  Perfectly chosen words. Planned gestures. Dramatic pauses.

But my presentation seemed too scripted.   Not real.  Not authentic.

I was a plastic person.

Later, in the same video, someone asks me a question. I went “off script” and came alive.

The plastic person melted.

And, I realized the secret to crafting a presentation that connects with people:

Write the way you talk.

You are not writing an essay that a reader can ponder and go back to read complicated sections. Write for the ear, not the eye.

Write as if you are talking to a close friend, someone specific.  You could even record yourself talking to someone about your subject to get a feel for the conversational tone.  At the very least, read what you’ve written out loud.

So, how do you write conversationally?

  • Use short sentences
    • “The buck stops here” is more powerful than, “I will not pass the responsibility on to someone else.”
  • Use short, plain words
    • For example, use “try” instead of “endeavor” or “set up” instead of “establish”
  • Use contractions
    • “I’m” instead of “I am” unless you are being emphatic.  For example, “I’m Diane Windingland” is more natural than “I am Diane Windingland.”  However, for emphatic statements, using the non-contracted form can add power.  Weak: “I’m sick and tired of . . .” Strong: “I am sick and tired of . . .”
  • Use active voice
    • Using an active voice simply means that the subject of the sentence is doing the action (verb) and not being acted upon.
      • Active:  Mrs. White (subject) read (verb) the book aloud to the students.
      • Passive:  The book (subject) was being read aloud by Mrs. White to the students. (Is the book doing the action?  No.)
  • Address the listener directly, using “you.”
    • Use phrases like “Have you . . . ?” instead of “Have any of you . . . ?”  You wouldn’t say “Have any of you . . . ?” when talking to one person, would you?
  •  Use concrete images, stories, and examples
    • If you speak about an abstract concept, quickly make it concrete for your audience or you will lose them.  Don’t just tell, show.
  • Reduce your speech to keywords and bullet points.
    • Practice from keywords and don’t worry about saying it the exact same way every time.  If you practice only one way over and over and then “blank out,” your mind has no alternative phrasing to turn to.  However, I do suggest memorizing the first few and last few lines, to give you a solid, planned start and end.

Don’t speak from written scripts.  Not only will you sound stilted, you will lose the engagement of conversational eye contact. Conversational eye contact means looking directly at individual people as you are speaking and not just looking at the audience.  Hold eye contact with an individual as you would in conversation—for a complete thought.  Then, move to another person in the audience.  I like to look at one person for a complete thought, then look at someone else near the first person for another complete thought before moving on to an individual in another part of the audience.

Craft and deliver conversational speeches to engage your audience!

The Goldmine in Your Backyard: Turn Your Speeches into Blogs, Books and More!

Speech as hubDon’t let your speech be a “one and done” event.  Multiply your efforts with multiple channels of distribution by re-purposing your speeches into blog posts, articles, books and more.

By re-purposing your speech content, you can establish yourself as a subject matter expert, and earn additional income from speeches you’ve already written, or will write.

There’s gold in your own backyard—you just have to dig it out of your speeches.

If you keep copies of your speeches on your computer, as I do, you can just cut, paste and  edit.  If you don’t, start recording your speeches and get them transcribed!

Let me give you my personal example for inspiration:

10/2009 Speech to YouTube video:  started occasionally posting speeches or parts of speeches to YouTube.

11/2009 Speech to blog: Started a WordPress blog, using Toastmaster speeches for initial content.  One speech often could become more than one blog post.

11/2009 Speeches to social media: Started posting blogs on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (can also tweet snippets of speech).  Eventually, I began using a social media dashboard, Hootsuite, which allowed me to post simultaneously to several social networks.

1/2010:  Speeches to Online PowerPoint: Opened a Slideshare account for sharing PowerPoint presentations online.  My most popular presentation is Easy PowerPoint Principles.  I also made a YouTube video of this presentation.

1/2010-5/2010 Blog to speech: You can do this in reverse, too. I wrote blog posts that became points in public seminars

8/2010-10/2010 Speech to Blog to Book:  75% of my first book, Small Talk Big Results (only 13,000 words) came from my blog.  This book has earned at least $300 a month every month since then (Amazon Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing).  Some of the content in this book was also used in another book published by McGraw Hill, Perfect Phrases for Icebreakers, published 12/2011.

12/2010 Speech to subscription ebook freebie: Made a newsletter subscription free ebook out of a speech (automatically sent when people signed up–offer on website)

1/2011 Speech to newsletter: started a newsletter which included content originally in speeches/blogs. Latest Newsletter issue.

2/2011 Speech to Ezine articles:  Started occasionally submitting articles to

9/2011 Speeches to Class Content: Turned some of the speeches into handouts for a class. In 2012 this content was re-purposed into my second self-published book, Speech Class for Teens.

2/2012 Speech to Workshop/Workbook.  I’ve held a couple of Storytelling Workshops and Keynote Classes originally based on speeches.

1/2012-9/2012 Speech to Blog to Newsletter to Book (planned):  re-purposed class content into blog posts for my presentation coaching business with the specific plan of turning the weekly blog posts into a weekly newsletter and later that year, my 3rd self-published book, Cat Got Your Tongue?

4/2013 Speech to magazine article.  Revised a chapter from a book (that was originally a speech) which was published in Me, Inc.

I haven’t even done a podcast yet!  Have you re-purposed any of your speeches in a way I haven’t mentioned?  I’d love to hear from you!