Perpetually Presenting: Talking Points Worksheet

Jan Nolte, IFC-Certified Executive Coach, and founder of The Influential Voice, led a February 2015 WAC webinar that identified some important communicative skill sets that we weren’t taught in school. Participants came away with a new understanding of the techniques behind exuding confidence and harnessing credibility as they present. Jan’s informative lesson demonstrated that when we speak, we are always presenting, regardless of the setting or audience, and that our mastery of certain presentation skills will set us apart, and afford us the freedom to Lean In professionally. The following 19 points spoke the loudest to us and to our participants, nicely summarizing Jan’s one-hour talk. Read through them, compare them with your own communicative approach, and visit Jan’s website to understand more about how the world hears you. If you like what you read, consider signing up for Jan’s next WAC Live Workshop: Mastering Executive Presence. And for further study, Jan highly recommends the book Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

Several “Theses” for Perpetually Presenting:

-These days, women are encouraged to Lean In, and when we do, it is imperative for us to speak up and be impactful. We cannot change other people, and sometimes we cannot change the environment. We can, however, take steps ourselves to effectively promote our ideas and our influence.

-Presenting does not exclusively refer to standing up in front of a group. You are always presenting, even in the most casual situations. You are perpetually “on”. Every time you are talking to someone other than yourself, you are engaging in public speaking.

-Whether it be at sales meetings, during internal meetings, on teleconferences, in the hallway, on the elevator, on the phone, or through email, you consistently have golden opportunities to move business forward and establish your credibility through presenting.

-Every conversation and every interaction is an opportunity to advance your career. If you don’t take advantage, you can stall it or even move it backwards.

All Of Your World Is A Stage:

-To think like a performer, always put the audience first. Be sure your attention is on them, not you. Step in with a purpose, and prepare to make a powerful impression on them.

-Remember the Equation: Idea + Emotion = Motivation (I+E=M). Since emotion is essential in strengthening memory, you’ll want to create a memorable message that will move your audience.

-Always observe your audience as you perform, taking away cues and responses that will serve to help polish your future presentations.

The System For Influence:

-Central to getting the most out of presenting is knowing what you are there to accomplish (Convince? Persuade? Educate? Market to? etc). Start by asking yourself:

-WHO is your audience?

-What is the ONE IDEA you want your audience to REMEMBER long after you speak?

-What will your audience think is in it for them? What do they care about?

-How do you want them to FEEL?

-What do you want them to DO?

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Prof. Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, Research Findings:


-Only 7% of what you say is used by your listeners to understand your idea. Knowing that your audience’s biggest distractions are their own busy minds, you must be succinct. Speak the most important idea first.

-55% of your impact is related to Body Language. Since your face is a powerful and necessary part of your body when it comes to credibility and influence, you should strongly consider smiling and using expression when you speak. Practice this even as a listener….it will allow you to be much more visible and memorable if you show the speaker cues that you hear and understand them. An occasional nod, raised eyebrow or smile has a huge impact. For more insight, check out this amazing TedEx Talk from Amy Cuddy demonstrating how body language shapes who you are.

-38% of how you are interpreted is through your physical voice. Chest Resonance, Vocal Variety and Pacing play the starring roles.

On Chest Resonance:

-Chest Resonance is the part of your sonic voice responsible for communicating the power of your ideas and your experience. It must not be suppressed.

-Awareness and relaxation are keys to developing chest resonance. To experiment, place a hand on your chest and feel the vibration as you speak. From there, play with tones that allow for more resonance. Count slowly from 1 to 5, increasing the buzzing sensation under your hand without necessarily pushing your voice.

On Vocal Variety:

-To develop more range in your voice, read aloud from any text as though you are reading to a child. Use this technique in casual conversations, and then carry it over into workplace conversations.

-When speaking in any setting, avoid the use of “upspeak”, also known as Rising Intonation, which is the vocal tendency to upwardly intone a statement at the end, as if it were a question. You wouldn’t want to compromise your credibility with the listener by coming across as insecure or unsure of yourself.

-Don’t let your voice get “caught in your throat”. In other words, avoid using Glottal Fry, or “vocal fry”, which is that breathless, creaky-sounding vocal register that results from deliberately low air flow, causing the vocal folds to vibrate too slowly. If you’re unsure as to whether or not you use too much glottal fry, ask others for feedback. Try also listening to a recording of your own voice.

On Pacing:

-When you speak, avoid being a train running through stations.  Once you’ve made a point, stop at that station and let the listener climb aboard.

-When tempted to use filler words including “um”, “uh”, “like” and “I mean”, default instead to silence. This approach is extremely powerful and will keep the listener focused, while demonstrating that you’re in command of your thoughts.

Practice Pays Off:

-If you practice your speech dynamics and presentation skills in everyday life during low-stakes moments, your impactful persona will come through more naturally when the pressure is turned up. Consciously presenting when ordering a cup of coffee or when simply chitchatting with a friend is excellent practice. New habits will form, and you’ll no longer feel distracted by any communicative weaknesses when presenting in the business setting.