There are three dimensions to every presentation:
- The verbal – i.e. the words you use
- The vocal – i.e. the way you say those words
- The visual – i.e. what people see while you are saying the words
You may think that the words you choose are the most important part of your presentation but by saying the same words with different vocal intonations you can convey different meanings. If you reciteyour presentation in a monotone voice and a constant pace most of your audience will get bored and stop listening. So the vocal aspect is in many ways more important then the words you choose. Of course the words do matter as nobody has ever made a multi-million pound sale by reciting nursery rhymes, no matter how well they recited them.
Is the visual impact more important the tone of voice? If you believe the old proverbs like “Seeing is believing”, “I saw it with my own eyes” or Confucius saying “I hear, I forget, I see I remember…” , then you would have to assume that it is.
Personally, I find it difficult to keep up a conversation while the television is on, because I am constantly attracted to the visual stimulus of the TV, rather than the aural stimulus of the other person’s voice.
This leads me to believe that the visual is more important than the vocal, which in turn is more important than the verbal aspects of a presentation. This also tallies with the research Alfred Mehrabian carried out in the 1960’s which showed that in one on one conversations the words contributed 7% of the message, the way they were said was 38% and the visual aspects were 55% of the communication.
However, more important than any one of these dimensions, is the fact the every dimension has to be synchronised with each other. The brain is very good at spotting things which are out-of-place, or not in sync with each other. If for instance, as part of your presentation, you introduce an exciting new product you need to do so in an excited tone of voice. If you yawned as you said it the words and the tone of voice would contradict the words and it would no longer be believable.
Similarly if you display a slide which says one thing and you talk about something else, or even talk about the same thing but use different words, the audience will become confused and not know which to believe, you or your slides. There are two ways round this, either say exactly what is on your slides (very boring and not good practise) or have slides with minimal text so they can’t contradict you.
In normal everyday conversations the intonations in our voice and the associated body language all come quite naturally, we don’t really have to think about it, unless we are trying to cover something up. The same is true when you are presenting. Assuming that you believe what you are saying, you need not worry about using the right tonal expression or having the right body language, just let it come naturally. It is only when you are thinking something different, from the words that you are saying, that you need to make a conscious effort to control your body language and control your tone of voice.
My advice is to make sure you only talk about things you believe in, or believe in everything you have to talk about.