Over the years I have attended many presentations where the speaker was not a native English speaker. Where the speaker was highly intelligent, the content of the talk was excellent and subject was highly informative, yet there was something that made the presentation just die. That something was the speaker sounding like he or she was reading their script. There was no emotion, no passion and it sounded like a robot was speaking.
You could write, and prepare the best presentation ever made, but destroy it in the first 30 seconds if you do not use rhythm, intonation and pausing in your presentation.
Let’s take a look at the 2007 launch of the iPhone. The beginning of the presentation, Steve Jobs talks about what Apple has been doing, how the iPod has been selling, and other updates. He then pauses. The screen behind him only has an Apple logo, he clears his throat and begins ” this is a day I’ve been looking forward to for 2 and a half years…” he then pauses again.
Watch the video below. Notice how Steve Jobs builds the excitement by using pauses, slow speech and intonation.
Now try reading the following out loud without pausing or changing the tone of your voice:
“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years. Every once in while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. Apple has been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these in to the world. In 1984 we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple; it changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPod. It didn’t just change we all listen to music; it changed the whole music industry. Well, today we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class…”
It just does not have the same excitement or passion.
What you have to do, is to practice your presentation over and over again, practice the pausing, practice the rising of your tone and the lowering of you tone. Speak loudly, then quietly.
I have been teaching business English for many years, and many of my students, whose vocabulary, listening skills and understanding of English is excellent, fall and fail when they stand up and give a presentation because they forget to use any kind of rhythm.
So, next time you give a presentation, remember to practice your speech. Remember to slow down, take you time and enjoy putting stress, emphasis and tone into your words. Not only will you enjoy the experience more, but your audience will too.
For more information on this, an excellent source is Carmine Gallo’s book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs