Do you use your hands or smile when your speaking?

What makes some presentations better than others?


The art of public speaking is fascinating. With a great message and charismatic delivery, some presentations can truly be life changing. However, others that don’t quite hit the mark can be more effective than ketamine for switching off an audience.

While many of us fear public speaking, if we can understand what makes some presentations or presenters better than others, then we know how we can improve. So what better place to look than TED Talks?

What makes a great TED talk?

A team of researchers from human behaviour research lab Science of People investigated what makes some speakers and speeches effective. Combined with viewership stats, the researchers asked 760 volunteers to watch 10 videos each and report on multiple aspects of effectiveness, such as charisma and credibility. Five factors were uncovered that can transform a ho-hum speech into a presentation with the potential to go viral.

TED talks are short and powerful speeches that often circulate online.TED talks are short and powerful speeches that often circulate online.

Primarily, the quality of a presentation is directly related to the speakers nonverbal communication competence. In fact, the most successful TED Talks garnered in excess of 7 million views, while the least popular barely topped 100,000. This, interestingly, has a close link to hand gestures. The popular presentations used an average of 465 hand gestures throughout their presentation, whereas almost half as many (272) were used in the talks that didn’t quite take off.

Additionally, the study revealed that during presentations a little curl of the lip can go a long way. Even for serious or solemn topics, the speakers who smiled more frequently were more likely to be perceived as intelligent. And clothing choice even came into play. Professional attire and darker colours helped speakers come out on top.

“People don’t remember much of what they hear, so focus and keep it simple.”

Staying focussed and keeping moving

Nick Morgan, author of “Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma” reminds us that people are easily distracted and have short memories, especially when a part of an audience.

“Audiences start off by asking why. Why am I here? Why should I care?” he told Forbes. “If you answer those questions early, then they’ll ask how. Your job is to answer the why question first and then address the how.”

“People don’t remember much of what they hear, so focus and keep it simple,” he said.

Concentrating on clear and memorable messages, as well as ensuring your body language and attire enhances what you are saying, is the best way to captivate your audience. So next time you stand up and speak, use these tips to transform the way people size you up.

But to advance your communications skills further, then check out the range of courses available at the Institute of Communication Management and Leadership.

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