Get Emotional

What do you think of when you hear the word emotional?

  • Crying?
  • Laughing?
  • Yelling?
  • Arguing?

The idea of being emotional can connote being out of control. While that is sometimes true, it also refers to engagement and excitement. And that is something you want your listeners to feel.

As a speaker, you want your audience to be emotional, but there are many ways to show emotion without being out of control. Likewise, there are many ways to evoke it.

Creating passion in an audience means your presentation will have more impact and stay with the listeners long after they are gone. It increases the likelihood that they will buy into what you are telling them or make the choice to use your services over someone else’s.


What is important to you about your idea? Why should your audience care about it? What makes is better than other, similar products on the market?

Don’t leave your audience wondering about any of the questions. Answer them in your speech.

Show that you care about your topic by being so well prepared that your words come naturally rather than from a piece of paper on the podium. This allows your audience to learn what excites you. Enthusiasm is contagious!

Facial Expressions

Make eye contact with people in your audience, one person at a time, and smile when it feels natural. Most people react to a smile with a smile of their own which is a powerful brain trigger for endorphins.

Try scanning the crowd and stopping with your gaze on one person each time you change topics or make a transition.

Body Language

Your body language can stoke excitement in an audience. Don’t pace back and forth, but do move around, engaging different sections of the listeners, focusing more of your attention on one area of the group when you are closer to them before moving to another.

Use gestures to convey emotions and excitement about your project. Step forward when you want to emphasize an important point.


Keep your visuals simple. Slides should be clean and bright, easily understood. Use no more than a half dozen words per slide. Look for compelling images that will have an emotional impact. There shouldn’t be so many words on your slide that you feel compelled to read from it.

Word Choice

Active verbs and descriptive adverbs will evoke more attention. Look for ways to use them in your speech.

Tell your audience that you’re excited to be here, not just happy. And then tell them why and what excites you.

Emotional Need

Consider why your audience is there. What do they hope to gain — especially emotionally — from you? Insight? Knowledge? What do you want them to leave knowing or believing? That your product is the one they should choose? Why? What makes it different?

In closing, let me tell you why emotional buy-in from your audience is so important: it means you can influence people when it comes to making decisions.

A friend of mine recently went looking for some flooring to install in her new home. She visited a big-box store and two independent dealers. The second independent dealer won her business. Members of his family worked for him. He had his products in his own home and his dog spent the day at his company. All of these spoke to him as a person and helped him make an emotional connection with my friend. Although he wasn’t making a speech, per se, he was giving a presentation. Without even knowing it, his own enthusiasm for his business and his product helped make the sale.

Before your next presentation, try thinking about how you can evoke emotion in your audience. Let me know what you did and how it worked for you!

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Being Memorable

What makes someone a memorable public speaker? When you think about memorable people, what words come to mind? Today we’ll spend some time talking about how to make a lasting impression on your audience.

First Impressions

The first impression you have on someone is usually visual. Who do they see when you take the stage? Are you confident, polished, and professional? Don’t forget, you can also be remembered for making a negative impression!

Let’s look at how to get that first impression right.

Dress for Success: A friend of mine told me that she grew up in a poor family. She said that regardless of how little they had, they were always dressed in clean clothes and that her mother kept a clean house. They were proud of what they did have and all of the children were taught to take good care of their belongings.

Do your best to dress appropriately for the occasion and always be neat and clean. This bit of attention to detail will add to your self-confidence and is one less thing to worry about when you make your presentation.

Make an Entrance: People are drawn to positivity and confidence. Make your walk to the podium memorable with a smile and a confident stride.

Your first few words are a big part of the initial impression your audience has of you and they will encourage them to stay focused on your message.

Start with a sincere welcome and hello and consider telling the first part of a story that will weave its way through your message.

Your Message

Less is More: Don’t try to memorize your speech. You’ll be thrown off if you forget a line and have a harder time recovering!

Practice is important, but try to remember the three key points you want to make between your opening and closing. You can speak off the cuff most of the time as long as you know your topic well and use those main points as scaffolding around which you’ll build your remarks.

Don’t Plant Your Feet in One Place: An important way to keep your audience’s attention is to move around while you speak. Motion keeps people’s eyes active and their mind alert and focused on your message.

Be sure you are moving with intention and not just pacing out of nervousness.  It can help to think of your movements as a distinct part of your key points by moving to a new point on the stage each time you make a new point.

Have Fun!

This is my number one tip on my recent Top Ten List. Let your enthusiasm for your topic show.  If you are speaking about something important to you personally, the audience will pick up on that and be more easily persuaded to buy in to your message.

Use gestures, facial expressions, and movement, as well as changes in your pitch and tone to show how you feel as you speak.

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Record Your Presentation

Most people take at least a quick look in a mirror every morning before they start their day. In fact, a great many people spend several minutes there, making sure that they are presenting themselves as they want to be seen. But the same isn’t always true when people are preparing for a speech.

We often forget to think about how we look as a speaker, not as an individual, before we give a speech. The ubiquitous nature of recording devices we carry with us every day in the form of our cell phones makes this an easy problem to resolve.

What’s at Stake?

It really difficult to be aware of all of our mannerisms and speech patterns without seeing our own performance. We tend to think more about how we look on camera from a physical standpoint than how we are coming across to an audience. So what can we gain from being in front of a camera and hitting the Record button?

  • – Mannerisms: How do you hold yourself when you speak? Are you gripping the podium for dear life? Do you pace the floor? Do you read word for word from your notes and make very little eye contact?
  • – Speech patterns: How often do you use filler words such as “like”, “um” or “uhh”? Do you speak as fast as a speeding train? Can audience members in the back row hear you comfortably or are they straining to catch your words?
  • – Expert advice: Is there someone whose presentation skills you admire? You can show them a few minutes of your recording and get their advice on how to improve.

It’s important not to be too hard on yourself in the beginning. Try not to focus on your clothes or physique. In fact, it may be helpful to watch the recording a couple of times yourself if you need to get more comfortable seeing or hearing yourself before you begin a critique of your actual skills.

Once that is accomplished, watch it again and take a few notes on your mannerisms and speech patterns. Work on improving the areas you noticed and then try recording again.

Do this two or three times over the course of a few days, letting what you have learned about yourself sink in. After you have made some changes, try taking it to a colleague or friend whose presentation skills you admire and get some feedback you can incorporate into your speech. It’s a great way to gain valuable insight on how you can improve.

With a little practice, you’ll find yourself naturally making corrections and you’ll see the version of yourself as a speaker that you want others to see.

Take a look at Kathryn Zonghetti’s short clip on what she gets out of recording herself. It’s evident from that clip alone that she has made quite a few improvements!

It’s Your Turn

Give it a try! Run through about fifteen minutes of your presentation and then watch the recording. Take a few notes and tell me what you noticed and what kind of changes you made.

I would love to know how this exercise worked for you!


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Pausing for Effect

In the 1980 film Star Wars, the hero, Luke Skywalker, is fighting his arch nemesis, Darth Vader. Darth asks Luke what he knows about his father and Luke says he knows enough.

“No.” says Darth Vader.

“I am your father.”

Listen to the pause Darth Vader uses to emphasize this horrible news.

The pause is an effective tool that can be used in a variety of ways to punch up your speech. Darth Vader uses it for dramatic effect.

When and Why?

The Opening: You don’t have to start speaking the instant you take the stage. You should feel free to position yourself, adjust the microphone as needed and make eye contact with some of your audience before you begin. This will give them the opportunity to focus on you and what you are about to say, which will give your opening sentence more punch.

A Replacement for Fillers: If you find yourself using speech fillers such as “um” or “like” or “uh”, you can use a pause instead. A pause sounds intentional whereas filler words show that you are nervous or may be under-prepared.

Audible Punctuation: The punctuation you use when writing a speech or creating a presentation is invisible to the audience when you deliver it. You can use pauses as part of your vocal variety toolbox. A short of pause of “one one-thousand” said silently in your head can stand for a comma or a colon.

A slightly longer one can indicate the end of a sentence, especially when it comes at the end of a major section of your speech.

Dramatic Effect: As in the example of Darth Vader above, a pause can be used to create tension or emphasize the next point you want to make. Silence always draws attention. Another example of this is the teacher in the classroom who stops talking to regain her distracted students’ attention.

This is the kind of pause that says “Listen!” I’m about to say something important.

Give Yourself a Break: You may find yourself needing a short break during your presentation. If you are nervous or out of breath or find that you are speaking too fast, you can just pause for a few seconds. This will allow you to take a sip of water or catch your breath. Pausing between major ideas in your presentation is similar.

It will also give the audience time to let what you have been saying sink in before you move on. Pausing in this way is not unusual and your audience will understand that you are just a second before you move on.

It’s Your Turn!

Take a speech you have been working on and see where you could add a pause or two. Consider using one in between the major sections of your presentation or to emphasize a particularly important thought. You can go through the text of your speech and replace some commas or periods with a pause. Consider using a heavy apostrophe above the place you want to pause.

Try rehearsing the speech with the pauses in place. Record it if you can and let me know how it went. Did you see or feel a difference in your performance? I would love to know what you thought!

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The Importance of Body Language

The importance of body language can’t be overstated when considering how you present yourself to an audience. We know that about half of a communicated message comes from non-verbal cues.

Good body language seamlessly supports and underscores your verbal message and does not distract the audience from your presentation. Poor body language is noticed. It attracts attention and makes it hard for your audience to focus on what you have to say.

How can you avoid this? Think of your body as a tool to support you when you speak.

Eye Contact: Don’t read from your speech.

Your eyes are an important part of your body language. It’s important not to read directly from your notes. Doing so shows lack of confidence and an inability to connect with your audience. It will leave them feeling ignored and wondering why they are spending valuable time there.

Making eye contact with others, whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting, is key to creating a positive impression and making your audience want to hear more.

Eye Contact: Fake it till you make it.

Your audience feels engaged when you look directly at them, but this doesn’t always have to mean direct eye contact. A good place to look is the forehead, especially when talking to larger groups of people. Scan the audience as you talk, referring to your notes occasionally as needed, and look at the upper part of people’s heads, moving down to the eyes as your confidence increases.

Your goal is to look at individual people in the audience, one at a time, as you move from point to point. Take a look at the video How To Make Eye Contact With Audience, where TJ Walker explains how President Bill Clinton does this.

Take a stand: Power Posing

A study in the journal Psychological Science showed that one-minute power poses cause changes in the brain of both women and men that result in an increase in self-confidence.

Step into an empty room or restroom and try posing like a superhero or a victorious runner with your arms stretched up over your head for 60 seconds before you take the stage.

In the video, 30 Seconds On Power Poses, Amy Cuddy shares the benefits of practicing this technique.

Take a stand: Don’t hide behind it.

If you have a podium, practice moving around behind it a bit rather than using it as a wall between you and your audience. If the microphone is attached to it, use forward and upward gestures to break the barrier. If you have the use of a larger space such as a stage or floor, use it! Move forward toward the audience when you want to emphasize a point. This will also force you to rely less on your notes.

Give it and try & let me know how it went!

Now it’s your turn. Review the exercise above and try out power posing, making better eye contact, or using the podium or stage you have the next time you speak and tell me what you thought. You can even put two or three of these exercises together for a real boost in audience engagement.

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