We have all been in a presentation when someone’s phone goes off. This is annoying and distracting, it is disrespectful and simply put it is noise. We have also seen our politicians on TV presenting with a group of their colleagues standing beside them nodding their head up and down, as if they are noddies. This is noise and annoys me more than the phone. What if I told you that many speakers create a lot of noise themselves because of their presentation style? Noise is not just sound. It is anything that distracts us, grabs our attention and dilutes the message that the speaker is saying. In this article I am going to outline common traits and habits that create noise and distractions that speakers should try and eliminate.
- Noisy Gestures. This is simply doing the same gesture over and over again often with a bounce and often in a rhythmical fashion as if you were conducting an audience. This includes the karate chop down onto one hand time and time again when trying to make a point. Our current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull does have some noisy gestures. Gestures are important and the “frozen gesture” is the antidote to the bouncy gesture.
- Noisy Use Of The Platform. This is a speaker who incessantly walks from side to side of the room, without purpose as if they are a “cat on a hot tin roof”. Or moves forwards and then backwards as if doing a little dance. By all means use the platform for purpose but standing still for a while before moving to your next position, makes you looks more confident and is less distracting to your audience.
- Words That Don’t Mean Anything. We all know of um’s and ah’s and how too many filler words can distract the listener and make you sound unsure. But other words such as “you know”, “obviously”, “actually”, “like” and “so”, repeated throughout a presentation are also very distracting. Keep your language clear and avoid distracting filler words.
- Noisy PowerPoint Slides. This includes slides with fancy transitions, noises like bells and kaching’s, and also lots of images on the slide that don’t relate to the purpose of that slide. This includes having page numbers, logo’s, website, phone number and any other information on every slide that is unrelated to the point the slide is trying to make. Put your corporate branding on the first slide and the last slide, but not on every slide. Strip your slides down, keep them simple and make them clearly illustrate your point.
- Fidgeting. People who play with jewellery, play with their hair, tug at their coat tails or are constantly adjusting clothing are what I call fidgets. Fidgeting is a sign of nerves and lessens your credibility. Other fidgets include playing with pens, swinging your reading glasses around, or playing with a piece of paper that you are not using for any reason. Over and above the nerves, fidgeting is outright distracting to your audience and it is noise that clouds your message.
- Noisy posture. This is when the speaker sways rhythmically from side to side, or does a little dance (2 steps forward – 2 steps back). It can also be locking the hip to one side and then moving to the other side. The stance of excellence is with feet slightly apart, knees slightly bent, feet firmly planted. Of course movement with purpose then allows you to leave this stance, move to another position on the stage, and regain the stance of excellence.
Do you know if you are a noisy speaker or not. What do your gestures, stance and PowerPoint slides say about you? You can always find out by seeking a coach or video recording your presentation. Try and eliminate the noise.