Talking Points

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2009

If that old adage is true—that effective public speaking is 93 percent how we look and sound and 7 percent content—then we’ve got a lot of work to do, says Tim Kasper, the Sarasota-based director of Southeast operations for the Pinnacle Performance Company.

“According to the Book of Lists, people fear talking in public even more than death,” says Kasper. “I like to tell the old Jerry Seinfeld joke: When you go to a funeral, the person giving the eulogy would rather be in the coffin.”

Kasper, an actor and singer who tours nationally with the a cappella quartet, The Blenders, trains business leaders to develop their messages using the Pinnacle Method, “time-honored techniques that professional actors and performers use to be better, more engaging communicators,” he says. Among Pinnacle’s big-name clients are Oracle, Walgreens, the OSI (Outback Steakhouse) Group, Apple and Adobe.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or in the mailroom,” says Kasper. “The presenter’s secret weapon to being more believable and captivating on stage is intention—putting meaning, purpose and passion behind your words.”  

Engaging the audience

Attack stage fright.  Do the signs of stage fright—dry mouth, trembling voice, weak knees, increased heart rate—sound familiar?  The antidote, says Kasper, is practice. “If you know the material, that’s going to eliminate a lot of the fear.”

Warm up properly. “At Pinnacle, we talk about the five-minute presenter’s warm-up: physical exercises to get the body moving,” says Kasper. “Do core breathing to relax and for sound. Don’t come in cold.”

Pay attention to your facial expressions. Maintaining good steady eye contact helps facilitate the flow of communication, says Kasper. And “use your facial mask. A very big part of that is smiling; smiling is a very powerful tool.” But make sure your body language is not saying something different than your intention, he says. “Obviously you’re not smiling when you deliver bad news.” 

Gestures. “If you fail to gesture when you’re speaking, you’re perceived as boring,” says Kasper. Keep your gestures above your waist; “those below your waist are perceived as weak,” he says. And beware of ineffective gestures, such as distracting your listeners by repetitively slapping one hand against another.

Posture and body orientation. “Pinnacle calls it the home base position: very comfortable, arms resting at your side, being able to gesture in space,” says Kasper.

Spatiality. That’s the ability to judge the size of your room, how close or how far away you need to be to deliver your message. Move closer for dramatic effect and to be more engaging.

Commit to the moment. “Once your speech or presentation begins, really commit to it and make it your own,” says Kasper, “and as much as you can, enjoy it.” When you’re well prepared, it’s much easier to do.


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